Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi (楊潔篪) sparked angry exchanges with Japanese diplomats at the UN by accusing Japan of stealing disputed islands.
Chinese and Japanese envoys staged a series of attacks during Thursday’s session after Yang heightened tensions over the Diaoyutai Isalnds (釣魚台) and reopened old diplomatic wounds over World War II.
The Japanese government’s purchase of three of the uninhabited islands from a private owner this month has infuriated Beijing and set off violent protests in China.
“China strongly urges Japan to immediately stop all activities that violate China’s territorial sovereignty, take concrete actions to correct its mistakes and return to the track of resolving the dispute through negotiation,” Yang told the UN assembly.
China has demanded the return of the uninhabited islands, known as the Senkakus in Japan, for decades. Taiwan also claims the islands.
Yang reaffirmed his country’s historical claim that Japan tricked China into signing a treaty ceding the islands in 1895. Japan states that the islands were legally incorporated into its territory.
Japan’s move was in “outright denial” of its defeat in World War II, he added.
In Tokyo, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura told reporters Yang’s remarks were “totally groundless.”
Yang and Japan’s Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba held stern talks on the dispute in New York on Tuesday, and Yang’s speech sparked sharp exchanges between Japanese and Chinese diplomats as each sought a right of reply.
Insisting that Japan legally incorporated the islands into its territory in 1895, Japan’s deputy UN ambassador Kazuo Kodama said that “an assertion that Japan took the islands from China cannot logically stand.”
China’s UN envoy Li Baodong (李保東) responded that “the Japanese delegate once again brazenly distorted history, resorting to spurious fallacious arguments that defy all reason and logic to justify their aggression of Chinese territory.”
He said his Japanese counterpart “feels no guilt for Japan’s history of aggression and colonialism.”
The Japanese government’s purchase of the islands is based purely on “the logic of robbers,” he said.
Meanwhile, in his most detailed plea to date for global action against Iran’s nuclear program, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday the world has until next summer at the latest to stop Iran before it gets a nuclear bomb.
Netanyahu flashed a diagram of a cartoon-like bomb before the General Assembly showing the progress Iran has made, saying it has already completed the first stage of uranium enrichment.
Then he pulled out a red marker and drew a line across what he said was a threshold Iran was approaching and which Israel could not tolerate — the completion of the second stage and 90 percent of the way to the uranium enrichment needed to make an atomic bomb.
Israel considers a nuclear-armed Iran to be an existential threat, citing Iranian denials of the Holocaust, its calls for Israel’s destruction, its development of missiles capable of striking the Jewish state and its support for Arab militant groups.
Iran’s deputy UN ambassador took the floor at the General Assembly later that day to categorically reject Israel’s “entirely baseless allegations,” insisting that the country’s nuclear program is purely peaceful.