Diaoyu Islands

Japan's plan to 'compromise a little' over islands fails to impress Beijing

Japan's plan to acknowledge Chinese claims to islands is a mere diplomatic gesture to prevent more economic damage, mainland analysts say

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 11 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 11 October, 2012, 12:49pm

Japan is reportedly considering an attempt to calm rising tensions with China by "acknowledging" Chinese claims to the disputed Diaoyu Islands, but Beijing has responded to the plan with indifference.

Kyodo News, citing Japanese sources close to the matter, reported yesterday that Tokyo was making plans to "compromise a little" with China after widespread anger sparked by the Japanese government's purchase of three of the islands in the East China Sea, known as the Senkakus in Japan.

Tokyo would only "acknowledge" Chinese claims to the islands, Kyodo reported, but would not give in to Beijing's calls to recognise that the sovereignty of the islands was in dispute, the report said - a self-contradictory signal interpreted by mainland analysts as a mere diplomatic gesture rather than a concession that could alleviate tensions.

Japan contemplated the plan after Jia Qinglin, chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, told a delegation of Japanese lawmakers and business leaders in Beijing last month that Tokyo should realise the seriousness of the situation and "correct its mistake", Kyodo reported.

Tokyo interpreted Jia's remarks as indicating that Beijing had set an intermediate goal of Japan acknowledging the existence of a territorial dispute, the report said.

But Japan had refrained from saying it "fully understands and respects" Chinese claims to the islands, fearing such a remark might be interpreted by Beijing as an acknowledgment of the existence of a territorial dispute.

In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei did not say if Beijing approved Tokyo's plan and called on Japan to admit the existence of a bilateral territorial dispute and settle the issue through negotiation.

Tensions over the dispute have been running high in recent months, with senior Chinese leaders including Vice-President Xi Jinping calling on Japan to stop undermining China's territorial integrity. Sales of Japanese cars have dropped on the mainland as a result of an anti-Japanese backlash.

Mainland analysts said they did not expect Beijing to respond positively to Tokyo's offer

"This is not a major concession by Tokyo," said Da Zhigang, a Japan specialist at Heilongjiang Academy of Social Sciences. "It will put Beijing in a difficult position in claiming sovereignty over the islands if it makes an enthusiastic response to such a minor step by Tokyo.

"It is just a gesture to calm tensions. When the situation has improved, Tokyo may take a tough stance again."

Professor Niu Zhongjun, a Japan specialist at China Foreign Affairs University, said Tokyo wanted to ease the spat because it had affected its economy, and China could take further steps to reinforce its sovereignty claims next month.

"It would be difficult to calm tensions if China is further irritated," he said. "But Tokyo's move is rather symbolic."

Professor Liu Junhong from the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations said Tokyo's plan lacked substance as it was still proceeding to purchase the islands.