China takes out ads to back claim to islands


THE CHINA Daily, the Chinese government’s official Englishlanguage organ, took out large advertisements in the New York Times, Washington Post and Los Angeles Times insisting on China’s right to a chain of islands disputed with Japan.

Under the headline “Diaoyu Islands belong to China”, the advertorial was a centre-page display in the New York Times – probably one of the most expensive newspaper advertisements in the world. The eye-catching advertisement was published just as world leaders gathered in New York for the UN General Assembly.

Sino-Japanese ties are at their lowest in decades as the two countries face off over a group of uninhabited islets in the East China Sea known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China.

The islands “have been an inherent territory of China since ancient times, and China has indisputable sovereignty” over them, ran the text of the advertisement.

Japan’s purchase of three of the five islands from their private owners two weeks ago sparked at times violent protests in China that targeted Japanese-owned shops and factories, as well as the Japanese embassy in Beijing.

“Japan’s so-called ‘nationalisation’ of Diaoyu Island severely infringes upon China’s sovereignty and rejects and challenges the outcomes of the victory of the World Anti-Fascist War,” the advertisement continues.

The Japanese embassy in Washington and the Japanese consulate general in New York filed protests with the newspapers over the advertisements. Japan’s ambassador to the US, Ichiro Fujisaki, criticised the papers for running them, the Asahi Shimbun newspaper reported.

“It is misleading to give a major focus to one-sided arguments of one of the contenders at a time when the issue is creating a major problem between the two countries,” Mr Fujisaki said. “It is inappropriate to print arguments of just one side that are not in line with the facts.”

The context to the row has been China’s growing political and economic weight in east Asia, which Japan is keen to counter. Neither side is backing down on its claim of sovereignty.

Beijing insists Japan tricked China into signing a treaty ceding the islands in 1895, but Tokyo says its government began surveying the islands in 1885 and found them unoccupied with no trace of them having been under the control of China.

Tokyo says mainland China and Taiwan, which also claims the islands, only began claiming them after 1970, when it emerged that the waters around the islets could be rich in natural gas deposits. There are also fishing grounds nearby.

Senior diplomats from the two countries have been meeting to try to repair relations but statements from leaders on both sides have remained defiant.

In a speech at the UN General Assembly last Thursday, US secretary of state Hillary Clinton urged China and Japan to let “cooler heads” prevail.

In a speech on Saturday to mark today’s 63rd anniversary of the proclamation of the People’s Republic of China, Chinese premier Wen Jiabao referred to the islands dispute and reiterated China’s stance. “We will firmly safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” he said.