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Japan, China hold first talks over island row

Publication Date : 27-09-2012


Japan and China hold a dialogue for the first time, aimed at stabilising tense relations over an escalating maritime row


Japan Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba held talks with his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi at a hastily arranged meeting Tuesday evening in New York, with both agreeing to continue dialogue aimed at stabilising tense relations between the two countries.

It was the first ministerial meeting between Japan and China since September 11, when the government nationalised some of the Senkaku Islands in Ishigaki, Okinawa Prefecture.

At the meeting, the Chinese delegation reiterated its position that the Senkaku Islands belong to China.

However, since China has agreed to hold ministerial talks, it is possible that a breakthrough in the bilateral row may emerge.

The meeting was proposed by both sides and lasted for about an hour at the UN headquarters building.

After the meeting, Gemba told reporters: "As Japan has been dealing with the issue in the most restrained manner, our government asked [China] to also act with self-restraint. The atmosphere of the meeting was tense."

Gemba also mentioned damage to Japanese entities caused by anti-Japan protesters in China, telling Yang, "Violence is unacceptable in any case."

He then demanded the Chinese government take proper actions to deal with the damage.

Gemba implied China's insistence that the Senkaku Islands are Chinese territory was groundless.

According to Xinhua, China's state-run news agency, Yang said the current situation had been unilaterally caused by Japan, and thus, Japan should take full responsibility.

Yang criticised Japan's actions and the meeting ended with both sides failing to make further progress.

However, the two ministers agreed to continue talks on the issue and bilateral ties.

According to the Japanese government, Yang said at the meeting that cooperation on various levels is important.

On Tuesday, Vice Foreign Minister Chikao Kawai and his Chinese counterpart Zhang Zhijun held a meeting in Beijing on the matter.

"The Chinese side may have begun actions to calm the situation," a member of the Japanese delegation said, commenting that the vice ministerial talks preceded Gemba's meeting with Yang at the United Nations.

Xinhua was unusually quick in reporting the outcome of the talks.

The agency reported that Yang said if Japan takes proper measures, corrects its mistakes and ceases all actions that threaten China's territorial sovereignty, it would be possible to bring the two countries' relations back on the path toward sound and steady development.

The Chinese side regards the series of talks, including the vice ministerial meeting, as a means to discuss "a territorial dispute."

Diplomatic sources say the Chinese stance is aimed at making Japan admit the existence of a territorial dispute to refute the government's position that a dispute over the Senkaku Islands does not exist.


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