Beijing urges Tokyo not to ‘complicate the situation’ in East China Sea

·3-min read

Japan has raised concerns over Chinese military activities in the disputed East China Sea in talks on Wednesday, while Beijing urged Tokyo not to do anything to complicate the situation.

In the meeting, Hong Liang, director general of the boundary and ocean affairs department at the Chinese foreign ministry, said Japan should respect China’s sovereignty in the East China Sea.

He made the remarks during a videoconference with his counterpart Takehiro Funakoshi, head of the Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau at Japan’s foreign ministry.

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The two neighbours have a long-running territorial dispute over a group of Japanese-controlled uninhabited islands that are known as the Diaoyus in China and the Senkakus in Japan.

“China reiterates its solemn position on the Diaoyu Islands and the East China Sea and urges Japan to respect China’s sovereignty and security concerns and refrain from taking actions that may complicate the situation,” Hong said, according to the Chinese foreign ministry. The statement said the two officials had a “candid and in-depth exchange of views” on managing their dispute.

Hong Liang said Japan should “refrain from taking any actions that may complicate the situation”. Photo: Handout
Hong Liang said Japan should “refrain from taking any actions that may complicate the situation”. Photo: Handout

Funakoshi voiced concern over China’s “increasing military activities” and called for self-restraint on Beijing’s part, according to Japan’s foreign ministry. It said he also raised the issue of repeated entry into Japanese waters by Chinese vessels near the Diaoyus.

It was the first talks between the two senior officials since Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida took office about a month ago. They last spoke in June.

In the videoconference, Funakoshi and Hong agreed to continue to communicate for a “constructive and sustainable” bilateral relationship, the Japanese ministry said.

Both sides also agreed to make efforts towards the early creation of an emergency hotline between Japan’s Self-Defence Forces and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army to avoid contingencies.

Takehiro Funakoshi raised the issue of repeated entry into Japanese waters by Chinese vessels near the islands. Photo: AFP
Takehiro Funakoshi raised the issue of repeated entry into Japanese waters by Chinese vessels near the islands. Photo: AFP

Beijing had proposed the talks in late September, when Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party was holding a leadership race to pick a successor to then prime minister Yoshihide Suga, who resigned amid criticism of his pandemic response, Kyodo news agency reported.

Ties between Beijing and Tokyo have been plagued for years by the territorial dispute, as well as the legacy of Japan’s past military aggression. Japan has also recently been more outspoken on China’s military presence in the South China Sea, its intimidation of Taiwan, and alleged human rights abuses in the Xinjiang region. Beijing has accused Tokyo of siding with Washington to contain China.

However, Japan’s new foreign minister on Thursday said it was important to build constructive and stable relations with Beijing.

“Ties between Japan and China are increasingly important not just for our two countries, but for the peace and prosperity of the region and the international community,” Yoshimasa Hayashi said in his first news conference as foreign minister. “We need to assert and ask for responsible behaviour while at the same time, maintain dialogue and firmly cooperate on shared challenges.”

Additional reporting by Reuters

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