Diaoyu Islands

Beijing to survey disputed Diaoyus to 'safeguard maritime interests'

As Tokyo is warned that attempts to 'encircle China' are doomed, low-key bilateral talks could pave way for visit by Abe envoy

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 16 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 16 January, 2013, 10:39am

Beijing will conduct a geographical survey of the disputed Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea as part of attempts to safeguard maritime rights with the help of the military, while tensions with Tokyo continue to rise.

The announcement, made by the National Administration of Surveying, Mapping and Geoinformation, came as China warned that any attempts by Japan to "encircle" China were doomed to fail.

The survey of the island chain, known in Japan as the Senkaku Islands, is part of a programme to map China's territorial islands and reefs, Xinhua reported yesterday, citing a statement from the agency, without giving a time frame for the study.

Li Zhigang, director of the National Geomatics Centre of China, was quoted by The Beijing News as saying the military would help conduct the survey.

"The surveying and mapping process is a fundamental step towards safeguarding the country's maritime interests," Li said.

But Zhang Huifeng , a director of the National Administration of Surveying, Mapping and Geoinformation, said the survey could encounter problems because of "illegal occupation by some countries".

Ties between China and Japan have deteriorated since Tokyo announced in September its intention to purchase the uninhabited islands from a Japanese businessman, triggering condemnation from Beijing.

On Friday, Beijing said it had scrambled two J-10 fighter jets to monitor Japanese military planes near the disputed islands.

Japanese media reported on Monday that Tokyo was considering stationing F-15 fighter jets on Shimoji-jima Island in Okinawa prefecture to deal with Chinese aircraft.

At a press conference last week, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Tokyo's stance on the islands was non-negotiable.

A signed commentary published in the overseas edition of the People's Daily yesterday said, "Japan's attempt to encircle China is impossible".

"Even the US, the world's only superpower, cannot encircle and contain China. How can Japan do that?" said the commentary, written by Jia Xiudong , a researcher at the China Institute of International Studies. Jia added that China would take a calm and flexible approach to Japan's aggressive move.

Meanwhile, former Japanese education minister Kenji Kosaka and Deputy Foreign Minister Fu Ying met on Monday.

The talks could pave the way for a possible visit to China by Masahiko Komura, vice-president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, as Abe's special envoy, Kyodo reported.

Also yesterday, former Japanese prime minister Yukio Hatoyama - who has called for improved ties - arrived in Beijing for a private visit at the invitation of a government-linked institute.