Tokyo warns Beijing over Chinese maritime push near Diaoyu Islands
Japan says ties are ‘deteriorating markedly’ as Chinese ships continue to sail in disputed waters
Tensions between China and Japan flared on Tuesday as Tokyo’s top diplomat warned Beijing’s envoy that Chinese activity near the disputed Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea could worsen ties “markedly”.
Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida summoned Chinese ambassador to Japan Cheng Yonghua to protest against China’s deployment of a record number of government vessels to disputed waters near the Senkakus, known as the Diaoyus in China.
Observers said the developments would pose a threat to bilateral ties, and could put security in Northeast Asia at risk.
Kishida told Cheng that the environment surrounding Sino-Japanese ties was deteriorating markedly, and China had tried to change the status quo unilaterally, Reuters reported.
After the meeting, Cheng said he told Kishida the islands were an integral part of China’s territory and the dispute should be resolved through diplomacy and dialogue. “I told him that ... it is natural that Chinese ships conduct activity in the waters in question,” he said. “I also told him both countries need to work on dialogue through diplomatic channels so as not to make things more complicated.”
On Monday, 15 Chinese ships were spotted near the islands, after some 230 Chinese fishing boats and seven coastguard ships – four apparently armed – sailed into the waters on Saturday.
Analysts said the move suggested China was taking a harder line in response to what it perceived as pressure and interference from Japan in South China Sea disputes.
Japan has called on China to abide by an international tribunal ruling last month that dismissed Beijing’s “nine-dash line” claim over much of the South China Sea. The case was lodged by the Philippines but Japan is locked in territorial disputes with China over the East China Sea.
Lian Degui, a Japanese studies specialist at Shanghai International Studies University, said Japan accused China of not following international law to pressure Beijing into making concessions on the East China Sea.
“But such efforts will only make China take a tougher stand … China will not give in Japanese pressure,” Lian said.
Huang Dahui, director of Renmin University’s East Asia Studies Centre, said ties between the two countries would continue to worsen, presenting further diplomatic challenges to China.
Huang said that at a special legislative session next month the Japanese government, led by the Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, was likely to revise its constitution to allow a more active military because of the threat posed by China.
“Abe is also likely to step up his efforts … and use international meetings to spread the idea of the China threat,” he said.
Abe is expected in China next month for a Group of 20 summit, where he might meet President Xi Jinping. Tokyo aimed for high-level talks with Beijing, Kyodo reported, citing a Japanese government source.
“But with the current strained relations, such meetings would be mere formality,” Huang said.