Diaoyu Islands

Japan's PM Noda calls for talks on Diaoyus dispute

In move seen as a softening of Tokyo's stance, Noda urges talks to contain economic damage

PUBLISHED : Friday, 12 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 12 October, 2012, 2:52pm

Tokyo appears to have softened its tone in its East China Sea territorial dispute with Beijing, with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda calling for bilateral talks to contain economic damage from the diplomatic row.

But Beijing is maintaining a tough stance, demanding that Tokyo "correct errors" and stop violating China's sovereignty in the disputed Diaoyu Islands, known as the Senkakus in Japan.

A meeting of health ministers from China, Japan and South Korea, scheduled to be held in Kyoto next month, will be postponed because of the absence of Chinese officials, Japan's Kyodo News reported yesterday.

Noda only wants to gain credit by keeping economic ties with China, but he won't make any substantial change in handling the dispute

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a press briefing in Beijing yesterday that Japan was "fully responsible" for causing "an unprecedented grave situation" in bilateral ties.

Noda said both countries would lose out if economic ties cooled. "We need talks … to make sure there is no effect on the broader relationship," he said. "There has been an effect on individual industries."

Noda's remarks came after People's Bank of China governor Zhou Xiaochuan and Finance Minister Xie Xuren decided not to attend annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank in Tokyo. IMF chief Christine Lagarde said in Tokyo that China would "lose out" by not attending.

In what is being seen as another sign that Tokyo is softening its tone, Japan's ambassador to the United States, Ichiro Fujisake, wrote that Tokyo had no intention of escalating tensions, and said claims Japan was shifting to the right were "exaggerated".

Noda and Fujisake's remarks follow rising concerns that tensions exacerbated by Japan's purchase of three of the islands last month were having an adverse impact on bilateral economic ties.

China Southern Airlines has said it will suspend flights between Beijing and Toyama, and China Eastern Airlines announced the suspension of flights between Shanghai and Fukushima.

The head of the Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Tadashi Okamura, said on Wednesday that the deterioration of bilateral ties would affect small and medium-sized businesses.

However, despite vowing to cool the situation, Noda said the islands were Japan's inherent territory and "there is no problem of sovereignty".

Zhou Yongsheng , a Japanese affairs expert at China Foreign Affairs University, said Beijing would not engage in talks unless Tokyo admitted that sovereignty was disputed.

"Noda only wants to gain credit by keeping economic ties with China, but he won't make any substantial change in handling the dispute," he said.

Da Zhigang, of the Heilongjiang Academy of Social Sciences, said Beijing held the "upper hand" because Japanese companies were being hit by economic measures imposed by China.

Liu Jiangyong , a professor in international relations at Tsinghua University, said Noda miscalculated China's response.