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Japan unmoved by adviser's island remarks

Publication Date : 29-10-2012


Scepticism continued to spread in Japan yesterday over calls by the ruling party's top adviser Yukio Hatoyama for Tokyo to face up to Beijing over the islands dispute in the East China Sea.

Hatoyama, the former Japanese prime minister, made the remarks on Saturday in a posture Japanese critics said is "different from the Japanese government's stance" of denying the existence of the dispute, and may receive further bashing.

As Japan's denial of the territorial issue continues, the country is in an unfavourable situation when facing the world, Hatoyama said during a speech in Tomakomai city of northeast Japan.

Japan's The Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper warned in a headline that the newly elected adviser's remarks could be a problem.

The top adviser, who is also expected to shape the ruling Democratic Party of Japan's diplomatic policies, suggested Japan should argue with China over the dispute as a territorial issue.

Chinese Vice-Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun on Friday said the two sides' consultations must be based on a clear recognition of the basic fact that the dispute between the two countries exists.

"On the Diaoyu Islands [known in Japan as Senkaku] issue, China has its position and Japan has a position that is different from China's, hence the dispute," Zhang said.

Ruan Zongze, vice-president of the China Institute of International Studies, said Hatoyama's remarks may be viewed in Japan as a minor tweak in the deadlocked diplomacy, but it's too early to say whether there will be a major change in Tokyo's stance.

"As Japan in September made the farcical islands 'purchase', Chinese vessels' constant presence in the waters off the islands has dismissed Tokyo's so-called control over them, and has placed huge pressure on Japan," Ruan said.

Yesterday, four Chinese maritime surveillance ships continued to patrol in the waters off the Diaoyu Islands, the Japanese Coast Guard said.

Meanwhile, Japan has decided to call off the planned island retaking joint drill with the US in November to avoid raising tensions with China.

The Asahi Shimbun newspaper said yesterday the decision was made after Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda on Friday held discussions in his office with Defence Minister Satoshi Morimoto and Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba.

The decision was made in the context of the deteriorating Japan-China ties frayed by the Diaoyu Islands dispute in the East China Sea, Japan's NHK Television said.

The drill was scheduled to take place on Irisuna Island in southwestern Japan under a scenario of retaking a territory occupied by foreign forces.

Regarded as the first of its kind in Japan's territory, the drill was designed to beef up the country's defence capacity of the islands in the southwest, Asahi said.

Japan's Kyodo News Agency earlier this week quoted unnamed government sources as saying that Washington and Tokyo planned to shelve the retaking drill in consideration of "the hope of the prime minister's office and the US of not aggravating ties with China".

Given the constant hovering of Chinese government vessels in the waters, "the implementation of the drill should not prompt a spat that goes beyond what is believed necessary", NHK said.

The timing of the drill was too sensitive, and Tokyo's reluctance to cancel the drill was obvious, yet Beijing should remain cautious of the possibility of future drills, Ruan said.


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