The Diaoyu Islands are a group of uninhabited islands located roughly due east of mainland China, northeast of Taiwan, west of Okinawa Island, and north of the southwestern end of the Ryukyu Islands. They are currently controlled by Japan, which calls them Senkaku Islands. Both China and Taiwan claim sovereignty over the islands.
Japanese send envoy to discuss Diaoyu Islands standoff
Vice-foreign minister faces difficult task of defusing maritime stand-off over disputed islands, while trying to salvage diplomatic ties
Tokyo sent a senior foreign affairs official to Beijing yesterday for a two-day visit, hours after three Chinese surveillance ships were involved in a stand-off with Japanese coastguard vessels near disputed islands in the East China Sea.
Japanese Vice-Foreign Minister Chikao Kawai will meet Chinese counterpart Zhang Zhijun today to discuss ways to stop the bilateral relationship from deteriorating further over the territorial row.
"During the consultations, the Chinese side will state its solemn position on the Diaoyu Islands issue, urge the Japanese [side] to correct its wrongdoing and make efforts to improve ties," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said.
The announcement of Kawai's visit came hours after three Chinese surveillance ships entered waters around the disputed Diaoyu Islands yesterday morning. It was the third stand-off near the islands - known in Japan as the Senkakus - since the Japanese government bought three of the islands on September 11 to "nationalise" them. The move sparked anti-Japanese protests in dozens of Chinese cities.
Japan's chief cabinet secretary, Osamu Fujimura, told a news conference yesterday that Japan was "strongly protesting" and urging the vessels to "exit from the territorial waters promptly". Kawai phoned China's ambassador to Japan, Cheng Yonghua , to protest about the move.
Xinhua said the patrols were intended to exercise China's "administrative jurisdiction" over the islands, accusing Japan of "gravely violating China's territorial sovereignty".
Professor Liang Yunxiang , an international relations specialist at Peking University, said: "An envoy cannot make any major change under this circumstance, when the two parties have no willingness to back down." He added that nothing major would be achieved during Kawai's visit, but a messenger could help cool the situation.
The Japanese government set up a special task force at the prime minister's office after yesterday's morning's stand-off, with Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda believing it would enable government officials to "work closely together and collect information", a senior government official told Kyodo News.
On Saturday, Noda warned Beijing its reactions to the territorial dispute, including protests and trade sanctions, could further weaken China's economy by scaring away foreign investors.
"China should be developing through the various foreign investments it receives," Noda told The Wall Street Journal. "Anything to discourage that is a disservice to itself."
Noda also said Japanese companies were facing a form of economic harassment in China, raising concerns that China was retaliating economically.
Chinese state media has called for a boycott or restrictions on imports from Japan. The overseas edition of the People's Daily carried an editorial yesterday warning that "if Japan continues its provocations, China will inevitably take on the fight … Japan's economy lacks immunity to Chinese economic measures."
Lian Degui , a Japanese affairs expert at the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, said trade sanctions were the most convenient way to show China's anger to Japan. "Trade sanctions work in the short term, but they're ultimately a double-edged sword and a lose-lose policy," he said.
Separately, Noda, who is scheduled to speak on the importance of "rule of law" in international-dispute settlement to the UN General Assembly this week, told The Wall Street Journal he would not single out any country by name in the speech.