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Japan fumes as Chinese ships linger near isles
Publication Date : 09-08-2013
Four Chinese coast guard vessels stayed a record 28 hours in waters near islands claimed by both Japan and China, triggering a strong warning from the Japanese against any show of force to change the current situation.
"Attempts to change the status quo against a backdrop of force are not permitted in the present international community," said Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida on Thursday.
Japan also summoned the Chinese envoy in Tokyo to lodge a formal protest.
The four Chinese ships left the area near the small isles, known as Senkaku to the Japanese and Diaoyu to the Chinese, around noon (Japan time) yesterday.
This latest intrusion into the waters by official Chinese vessels was twice as long as that logged on February 4.
Chinese government ships have been entering the area regularly since last September when the Japanese government bought the islands.
At the Japanese foreign ministry yesterday, acting Chinese Ambassador Han Zhiqiang reportedly reiterated Beijing's position that the disputed isles belong to China.
"We cannot accept Japan's protest," he said.
Senior Japanese administration officials were unable to contain their displeasure.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, the government's chief spokesman, told reporters: "This has been the longest intrusion of territorial waters since September when the islands were nationalised. It is extremely regrettable and totally unacceptable."
The latest incident came two days after Japan launched its biggest-ever warship to be built since World War II, which drew strong criticism from China.
China's increasingly bold maritime activities in the East China and South China seas are said to reflect new Chinese President Xi Jinping's policy to make China into a maritime power.
In December, a Chinese surveillance plane was seen for the first time near the Senkaku/ Diaoyu isles and last month Chinese ships passed through a strait just north of Japan, also for the first time.
The latest moves are aimed at forcing Japan to recognise China's claim to the islands, which Tokyo has so far refused to do, Associate Professor Taylor Fravel, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was quoted by Bloomberg as saying.
"Like Scarborough, China is trying to create a new status quo," he said.
Since last year, Chinese vessels have been patrolling the waters around the disputed Scarborough Shoal after a two-month standoff there between rival claimants China and the Philippines.
Professor Koichi Sato, of J.F.Oberlin University in Tokyo, believes the latest incident underlines the desire of the newly constituted Chinese coast guard "to make its presence felt and to show that it is in control".
But he sees a difference between China's approach to the Senkaku dispute and to Scarborough Shoal.
"In the case of Senkaku, China is aiming to jointly manage the islands with Japan. For the Shoal, I think China is hoping to seize the territory," said the China scholar.
Despite calls by both China and Japan for dialogue to resolve their dispute, a summit between their leaders appears remote.
Last week, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hua Chun-ying told reporters: "The problem is that Japan pays lip service to dialogue but at the same time takes provocative action. It shows no sincerity."