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.
Prime minister Noda says Japan must reinforce its defences
As Chinese ships patrol islands claimed by both nations, Noda says security situation 'is becoming more serious than ever'
Japan would strengthen security around its coasts, the prime minister announced yesterday as Chinese maritime surveillance ships continued to patrol waters around disputed islands in the East China Sea
Yoshihiko Noda told Japan's parliament: "It is unmistakable that the security environment surrounding Japan is becoming more serious than ever. Various events touching on territorial and sovereign rights are occurring."
In his speech to the Diet, he added: "While observing the pacifism that is a pillar of our constitution … I will make efforts to strengthen security in surrounding sea areas."
The comments came after Japan said on Friday that it would spend 17 billion yen (HK$1.7 billion) beefing up its coastguard.
Chinese vessels were again in the so-called contiguous zone near the disputed Diaoyu Islands yesterday, for the 10th day in a row. Chinese media have repeatedly urged the use of military force to press the nation's claim to the uninhabited islands, known as the Senkakus in Japan.
"Both governments want to cool down the disputes but unfortunately they cannot find a mutual cooling point," said Liang Yunxiang , an international relations specialist at Peking University. "Now is the time for a contest of wills."
Japan's Kyodo News agency quoted an anonymous Japanese government source as saying that Noda and Premier Wen Jiabao were unlikely to arrange to sit down together at the Asia-Europe Meeting in Laos next week. It said both sides believed that tensions might escalate if Noda and Wen ended up arguing over the islands.
"Given the fact it is the worst relationship scenario between the two countries since diplomatic ties were established 40 years ago, a meeting between the top leaders is doubtful," said Professor Lian Degui , from the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies.
However, he believed the two leaders may still come face to face in an informal "corridor" meeting.
Noda and Wen are also expected to avoid a formal meeting at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in Cambodia later next month.
Tensions peaked last month when Chinese protesters set fire to several Japanese-linked businesses on the mainland after the Japanese government bought three of the disputed islands.
A meeting between deputy foreign ministers took place in Shanghai a week ago, with the Japanese government saying the two sides had "been exchanging views over the current situation".
Ruan Zongze, of the China Institute of International Studies, said the Japanese government still had the mistaken "fantasy" that the incident could be cooled down easily and was wrong to think stability was Beijing's top priority ahead of the 18th party congress.
"As a matter of fact, China will fight them to the end," Ruan said.