Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said on Wednesday his nation is not willing to compromise in a territorial dispute over islands that have spawned violent anti-Japan protests, drawing strong responses from Beijing and Taipei, who both claim sovereignty over the islands.
Noda was speaking at a news conference after telling the UN General Assembly that issues should be resolved peacefully, according to rule of law and not through force.
Senior Chinese and Japanese diplomats met in New York and Beijing on Tuesday, seeking to mend ties frayed by the spat over the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台), called the Senakakus by Japan, that has raised tensions between them to their highest level in years.
The islands, held by Japan, are uninhabited, but sit astride rich fishing waters and potentially large reserves of natural gas.
“So far as the Senkaku islands are concerned, they are the inherent part of our territory, in light of history and international law. It’s very clear,” Noda said. “There are no territorial issues as such, therefore there could not be any compromise that may mean any setback from this basic position.”
He added that in the case of the Senkakus as well as that of separate islands that are the subject of a spat between Japan and fellow US ally South Korea, Japan would “maintain reason and try to resolve the issue calmly.”
Noda defended his government’s purchase of some of the islands from a private Japanese citizen two weeks ago as an attempt to ensure their “stable management,” but conceded “it seems that China has yet to understand that.”
He said violence in the protests — that have targeted Japanese-owned stores and factories in China — could not be condoned in any circumstances and that Japan had demanded China protect Japanese citizens and property.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang (秦剛) responded to Noda’s comments by saying they ignored historical casts and international laws.
“The country concerned must face up to history and earnestly abide by international legal principles, and cease all actions that infringe the territorial integrity and sovereignty of other countries,” he said in a statement issued yesterday.
“China is extremely dissatisfied with and sternly opposes the Japanese leader’s obstinate persistence in his incorrect views regarding the Diaoyu islands,” the statement added.
Xinhua news agency reported that Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi (楊潔篪) told his Japanese counterpart, Koichiro Gemba, in New York on Tuesday that the Japanese government’s island purchase constituted “a serious challenge to the post-war international order.”
Taiwan has also weighed in on the intensifying dispute.
On Tuesday, Japanese and Taiwanese coast guard cutters exchanged water cannon blasts just off the islands.
Taiwan once again called on Japan to recognize the existence of the territorial dispute over the Diaoyutais, a Taiwanese Foreign Ministry official said yesterday in response to Japan’s rejection of the controversy over the island group.
“If Japan does not recognize the dispute, the issue will not be resolved,” Taiwanese Foreign Ministry spokesman Steve Hsia (夏季昌) said.
Hsia’s remarks came following reports of Noda’s remarks at the news conference in New York on Wednesday that the islands were inherently Japan’s territory.
Hsia reiterated that the islands are the Republic of China’s territory and that Taiwan will not accept any claims that undermine its sovereignty over the island chain.