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Japan's Deputy Foreign Minister Visits Beijing

  • Shannon Sant

Several dozen fishing boats flying Taiwanese national flags set out from the Suao harbor, northeastern Taiwan, to the disputed islands in the East China Sea, September 24, 2012.

Several dozen fishing boats flying Taiwanese national flags set out from the Suao harbor, northeastern Taiwan, to the disputed islands in the East China Sea, September 24, 2012.

Following weeks of tension about disputed islands in the East China Sea, Japan’s deputy foreign minister is in Beijing to discuss the issue. A few more Chinese ships are visiting thewaters around the islands known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China.

Japan’s Deputy Foreign Minister Chikai Kawai arrived in Beijing where he will meet with his Chinese counterpart to discuss the dispute. China’s foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei says the visit came at the request of the Japanese.

He says during the talks China will elaborate on its strong position about the Diaoyu Islands, demand Japan correct its mistakes and make strong efforts to improve Sino-Japanese relations.

The Japanese government’s move to purchase three of the disputed islands from a private owner, earlier this month touched off mass protests in China that occasionally turned violent. Although the protests have largely subsided, Chinese government and fishing ships continue to regularly travel near the islands that Japan says are in its territorial waters.

Japanese coast guard authorities say two Chinese surveillance ships and a fishery patrol entered disputed waters Monday. China’s state-run Xinhua news agency reported the two surveillance ships were on a “rights defense” patrol.

Japan’s chief cabinet secretary said the two countries are in contact over the issue.

He says, through high-level diplomatic channels, Japan has strongly urged China to keep the surveillance ships away from the territorial waters and to leave the area immediately.

China has refused to remove its ships from the waters and says the ships are on a routine surveillance mission. Following reports that Taiwanese fishermen plan to sail to waters near the islands, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson says China will work with Taiwan to secure the region.

He says for the national interests, both sides across the straits should unite as one and act in their own ways to defend the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the nation and to jointly uphold the overall and fundamental interests of the Chinese nation.

On Sunday, China canceled celebrations marking the 40th anniversary of the normalization of ties with Japan. Japanese business leaders have also dropped a planned trip to Beijing to meet with Chinese political leaders. The group cited safety concerns as the reason for canceling their trip.

Bilateral trade between Japan and China grew 14 percent to $345 billion in 2011. Both countries are in the midst of domestic political change which can add pressure on political leaders to appear strong to their respective publics. Japan’s prime minister is up for election within months, and China’s Communist Party will have a leadership turnover in mid-October.

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