Diaoyu Islands

China's behaviour over Diaoyus similar to Russian annexation of Crimea, says senior Japanese official

Senior Japanese official says Beijing action over Diaoyus is similar to the annexation of Crimea

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 25 March, 2014, 4:01am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 25 March, 2014, 3:48pm

China's attempts to snatch the Diaoyu Islands away from Japan are similar to Russia's behaviour in seizing Crimea, a senior Japanese government official told the South China Morning Post.

"It does look like China, on the back of its power, unilaterally tried to change the status quo. That's our interpretation," said Yasutoshi Nishimura, the senior cabinet office vice-minister.

"That is almost tantamount to what is currently going on in Crimea, with Russia amalgamating with Crimea."

A bitter diplomatic stand-off has brewed between Beijing and Tokyo over the sovereignty of the East China Sea islands, known as the Senkaku Islands in Japan, since late 2012 when the Japanese government bought them from their private owner.

The tensions have stoked international concern over the chance of an accidental confrontation between the two countries - the world's second-largest and third-largest economies after the US - as Japanese and Chinese fighter jets and patrol ships shadow each other around the disputed territory.

Nishimura is responsible for helping to craft economic policy as part of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's efforts to kick-start the economy through a three-pronged reform strategy known as Abenomics.

Speaking through an interpreter, Nishimura reiterated his government's position that the disputed islands were an integral part of Japan.

He said the two countries should go "back to basics" and establish a "mutually beneficial strategic relationship".

Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida told the Post in an interview earlier this month that he hoped a "candid exchange of views" would lead to high-level talks to resolve their differences.

Nishimura was in Hong Kong to attend the Credit Suisse Asian Investment Conference and promote Japan to foreign investors possibly wary of a country with a two-decade-long record of deflation and anaemic growth.

Yesterday, he gave a presentation in English to investors and analysts where he outlined reforms in agriculture, immigration, management of the state pension fund and healthcare.

Attempts by previous governments to reform these sectors ended in failure after hostile reactions from powerful industry and bureaucratic lobbies.

He also detailed government plans to subsidise kindergartens to help women build careers and to allow foreign trainees to enter selected industries.

"It is really now or never. We have to carry out sweeping reforms. There may be a lot of resistance," Nishimura said.

Watch: What is the East China Sea dispute about?