Wed, Feb 07, 2007 - Page 4 News List

Japan `sensationalizing' sea research, China says


China has warned Japan against "sensationalizing" research activities by a Chinese vessel in disputed resource-rich waters, the foreign ministry in Beijing said yesterday.

China issued the warning, which also appeared to be a tacit recognition that a Chinese vessel had indeed carried out research in the Diaoyu archipelago, to an unnamed Japanese diplomat on Monday, the ministry said in a statement.

"The Diaoyu islands have been Chinese soil since ancient times, and China has indisputable sovereignty over the area," a Chinese official, also unidentified, was quoted as telling the Japanese diplomat.

"Normal maritime research carried out by a Chinese vessel is tantamount to China justly exercising its sovereign rights. China expresses its strong dissatisfaction over Japan's attempt to sensationalize this," he said.

Japan said it spotted a Chinese ship on Sunday that was apparently carrying out research in what Tokyo considers its waters in the East China Sea. Japan did not accept the Chinese explanation.

"China is repeating its own argument. Japan cannot accept that," chief government spokesman Yasuhisa Shiozaki told reporters in Tokyo.

"We will continue asking for an explanation that is satisfactory to us," he said.

The flare-up over the islands comes despite an effort by the two countries to repair relations, which were badly strained under Japan's former prime minister Junichiro Koizumi.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Beijing shortly after taking office in September. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶) is to pay a return trip in April.

The islands in question, called the Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in Chinese, are disputed among Japan, China and Taiwan.

Japan declared the islands part of its territory in 1895 when it took over Taiwan. After World War II, the US used the islets for military drills before handing them to Japan in 1972 along with Okinawa.

China and Taiwan renewed their claims to the area after oil deposits were confirmed nearby in the 1970s.

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