China acts over disputed islands
TENSIONS RATCHETED higher between China and Japan over a group of islands claimed by both countries, after Beijing dispatched military vessels to the area and Japan finalised the purchase of the islets from a private owner.
China sent two marine surveillance patrol vessels to the three uninhabited islands in the East China Sea, known in China as the Diaoyu islands and to the Japanese as the Senkaku islands.
The territorial dispute has been running at a low level for years. The islands are near rich fishing grounds and potentially huge maritime gas fields. Anger flared up again last month after Japan detained a group of Chinese activists who had landed on the islands.
The Chinese vessels reached the waters around the islets early on Tuesday, and China’s defence ministry warned that more steps could follow.
“The Chinese military expresses its staunch opposition and strong protest over this,” said defence ministry spokesman Geng Yansheng on the ministry’s website.
“The Chinese government and military are unwavering in their determination and will to defend national territorial sovereignty. We are closely following developments, and reserve the power to adopt corresponding measures.”
The PLA Daily, the flagship newspaper of China’s armed forces, carried a commentary protesting in powerful language against what it called Japan’s “nationalisation” of the islands.
“The Chinese government and the Chinese people will absolutely make no concession on territorial sovereignty,” it said.
“The Chinese people made a significant contribution to and they had also paid dearly. We will not let the martyrs’ blood flow in vain.”
Japan insisted that it bought the islands for 2.05 billion yen (€20 million) to maintain peace and stability. They had previously been leased by the government from a Japanese family that has owned them since early 1970s.
“We cannot damage the stable development of the Japan-China relationship because of that issue. Both nations need to act calmly and from a broad perspective,” said foreign minister Koichiro Gemba.
Meanwhile, the United States called for calm and warned that tensions between the world’s second- and third-biggest economies would have repercussions.
“This is the cockpit of the global economy and the stakes could not be bigger and the desire is to have all leaders keep that squarely in mind,” said assistant secretary of state Kurt Campbell in Washington.