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.
Tokyo's 'diplomatic issue' offer over Diaoyus likely to be sunk
Keith Zhai and Julian Ryall in Tokyo
Tokyo's reported offer to acknowledge its row with China over the Diaoyu Islands as a "diplomatic issue" will likely fall flat in Beijing, analysts said.
Citing anonymous sources, Japan's Kyodo News reported that Tokyo last month proposed acknowledging the territorial row over the islands was a diplomatic concern without conceding its stance that their sovereignty was not in dispute.
Doing so, Tokyo argued, would not prejudice China's own sovereignty claim to East China Sea islands, which are known as the Senkakus in Japan. The proposal was raised by Japan's top foreign policy adviser Shotaro Yachi during his visit to Beijing last month, Kyodo said.
Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida disputed the Kyodo report on Tuesday, saying Tokyo's position on the islands "hasn't changed at all".
Relations have been strained by the territorial dispute, with both country's engaging in rival maritime patrols of the islands aimed at asserting sovereignty.
Jun Okumura, an international relations analyst with the Eurasia Group, told the South China Morning Post that the Kyodo report was "plausible" given that Yachi's proposal reportedly also included the demand that China stop sending ships into waters around the Senkakus.
"If the Chinese side could accept this, then I think as a package it would be acceptable to editorial writers at the Yomiuri Shimbun," he said, citing the conservative daily newspaper. Even the more right-wing Sankei Shimbun would probably give it a "pass grade", he added.
Some Chinese analysts said Yachi's offer could have been designed to gain support from the international community by appearing open to two-way talks.
Professor Zhou Yongsheng , an international relations expert at China Foreign Affairs University, said the move appeared intended to support Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's accusations that China has been "shutting all the doors" to dialogue.
"Even if the report is accurate, it shows Japan has no sincerity about dialogue with China as it clearly knows the crux of the territorial debate is sovereignty issue," said Zhou. "If Japan insists there is no room to debate sovereignty, then there is no scope for a breakthrough in the Sino-Japanese relationship."
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying yesterday urged Japanese authorities to make efforts to "remove obstacles impeding the sound development of bilateral relations", Xinhua reported. She said China was committed to resolving problems through dialogue and the door for dialogue has always been open.
Okumura suggested that Beijing may want to let the Japanese proposal lie, instead of rejecting it outright. He believes that China will attempt to wring more concessions from Japan in return for withdrawing its ships.