Senior China leader urges island talks with Japan


In this Sept. 2, 2012 file photo, the survey ship Koyo Maru, left, chartered by Tokyo Metropolitan Government officials, sails around Minamikojima, foreground, Kitakojima, middle right, and Uotsuri, background, the tiny islands in the East China Sea, called Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in Chinese. Japanese were voting Sunday, Dec. 16 in parliamentary elections that were expected to put the once-dominant conservatives back in power after a three-year break — and bring in a more nationalistic government amid tensions with big neighbor China. Japan’s largest opposition Liberal Democratic Party leader Shinzo Abe in particular has taken a tough stance toward Beijing in the election campaign amid a simmering dispute over the islands in the East China Sea that are controlled by Japan but also claimed by China and Taiwan. AP/Kyodo News

BEIJING — A high-level Chinese official has called for talks with Japan over a disputed island chain, in an apparent attempt by Beijing to cool tensions that have seen both sides scramble jet fighters to the area in recent days.

Jia Qinglin, the head of China’s top political advisory body, made the gesture at a meeting in Beijing with former Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, the official China Daily newspaper reported Thursday.

Japan has steadfastly refused China’s past calls to hold talks over the islands, with Tokyo arguing that it holds sovereignty over the islets and thus there is nothing to negotiate.

Jia is believed to be the highest-ranking Chinese official to publicly issue such a call, and the mild tenor of his remarks — omitting China’s standard accusation that Japan is wholly responsible for the frictions — was seen as a signal Beijing hopes to arrest momentum toward an all-out crisis.

“The two sides should appropriately handle questions surrounding the Diaoyu islands and other and other issues on which their stances’ differ,” Jia said, using the Chinese term for the tiny uninhabited islands lying north of Taiwan. Japan, which controls the islands, calls them the Senkakus.

Jia is due to retire in March and Hatoyama has long been an advocate of closer ties with China, though he has lost influence under new Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. China’s call for talks in a meeting Wednesday could represent a way to ask for talks that is less risky than an official, high-level exchange.

However, Japan showed no sign of budging from its position.

Responding to reports that Hatoyama had agreed with Jia on the need for negotiations, Japan’s chief Cabinet spokesman Yoshihide Suga expressed the Abe government’s disapproval. “This is clearly not a comment that reflects the position of the Japanese government and we very much regret that someone who was once the prime minister of our country would make such remarks,” Suga told reporters in Tokyo.

Feng Wei, a researcher at Fudan University’s Japanese Studies Center in Shanghai, said that Jia represents “the official stance, which is to ease tensions.”

“That’s also why he (Hatoyama) was invited to China in the first place. It’s highly symbolic.”

Also Thursday, Kurt Campbell, the top U.S. diplomat for East Asia, called for “quiet diplomacy” between Japan, China and South Korea over territorial disputes in northeast Asia, but said Washington would not play the role of mediator.

The islands are surrounded by rich fishing grounds and a potential wealth of gas, oil, and other undersea resources. For China, they also mark a strategic gateway to the Pacific ocean and represent the deeply emotional legacy of Japan’s conquest of Chinese territory beginning in 1895 as well as its brutal World War II occupation of much of the country.

Tensions mounted in September after Beijing responded furiously to Tokyo’s purchase of the islands from private Japanese owners. Placed under U.S. control after World War II, the islands were returned to Japan in 1972, although Beijing says they have been Chinese territory for centuries. Taiwan also claims the islands.

Japan’s move to nationalize the islands sparked violent anti-Japanese rioting in China and prompted Beijing to dispatch marine surveillance ships to them on a regular basis to confront Japanese Coast Guard cutters assigned to protect the area.

That standoff has also moved to the skies. Last week, both sides dispatched fighter jets to trail each other’s planes. While no contact was reported, that move underscored the potential for accidents or miscalculations sparking a clash that could draw in Japan’s treaty partner the United States.

Outspoken Chinese generals have added to those fears with warnings that stepped-up Japanese actions, such as the firing of warning shots at Chinese aircraft, would be seen as acts of war.

“China doesn’t actually want a military confrontation. It is using the dispatch of ships and planes as a means of putting pressure on Japan to at least admit that a dispute over the islands exist,” said Zhu Feng, a security expert at Peking University’s School of International Studies.

Zhu said Jia’s comments to Hatoyama represent an extension of that strategy, but are unlikely to produce results as long as Abe hews to the line of refusing to acknowledge that the islands are in dispute. Further complicating matters, Abe, like new Chinese leader Xi Jinping, is still establishing himself in power and doesn’t wish to be seen as weak on national security matters, Zhu said.

“Nothing will change right away since Abe is taking a hard line and is busy building up his popularity and consolidating his power,” Zhu said.

Get Inquirer updates while on the go, add us on these apps:

Inquirer Viber

Disclaimer: The comments uploaded on this site do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of management and owner of We reserve the right to exclude comments that we deem to be inconsistent with our editorial standards.

  • jerome

    The reason why China is trying to talk with japan is that it cannot bully the small country because it can match it’s military firepower…

    • sherlock

       How about you start to learn ABC of Japan before you talk about her.
       I suggest you study Japanese language first.

  • sherlock

    Abe is in Vietnam now. What did he tell to Vietnamese ?

    “– ties with China represent one of Japan’s most important bilateral relationships.

    — Japan will deal with China-related issues in a calm manner,
    maintain and strengthen communication with China and properly manage
    relationship with it.”

    It is naive to think that Japan is counterweight.

  • sherlock


     It sounds like you know nothing about Japan.

  • sherlock

    The report omitted one important information of the meeting:

    “Hatoyama urges Japan gov’t to acknowledge territorial dispute with China”

    Not only that, Hatoyama plans to visit a memorial hall dedicated to victims of the
    Nanjing Massacre, a mass killing of civilians by Imperial Japanese Army
    soldiers that occurred in 1937 during the Sino-Japanese war.

  • RyanE

    Japan’s new leadership’s stance against China has made the latter pause and think twice. It’s really helpful to back up diplomacy with military might which Japan has. I guess at present, China’s conventional forces though more in quantity will be no match to Japan’s modern arsenal though smaller in quantity.

    Likewise, PHL should modernize and strengthen its defense capability as China only respects those countries that can stand up and look straight to its eyes without blinking.

  • Verlito

    All of those legislators are guilty of using government funds for personal interests. It is just as to what extent each of them had benefited from it.

  • pepito gwaps

    China should resolve its conflict with Japan over the sensaku island. Her claim to the whole west philippine sea is very crucial stance and could be treated by many nations as exagerrated claim once her talks to Japan failed. It will come out exagerrated and unreasonable claim to all because the island near to her coastline is not her so how come she claims ownership to the entire spratlys area which are thousand miles away from her shoreline. But I think the Japanese will not give up the island to China because it has a kind of patriotic symbolism to them and their enormous unity of their people will not allow such threat and it will results to further troubles in the region. They are all both thirsty to regain their posture and glory after the dark ages of their history.

    • Garo Ungaro

      True this crucial…China request for bilateral dialog with Japan. Japan absorb the disrespect they got from destroying and attacking Japanese business in China. True China/Japan $350B trade was affected…Its was not healthy for both. If they can’t resolve this issue…maybe we might see a modern naval engagement in the SCS. China can’t go anywhere in justification with the 9 dash claims…Japan will not give the island and its ready to defend and meet them head on…The SCSs international sea lanes is also affected by this China moves. Japan/Korea in particular…How will Japan navigate the 9 dash zone…without incident with the presence of Chinas naval forces in the area?…China realized their aggressiveness in the SCS with not give them a good image. Japan is working some business elsewhere other ASEAN countries trying to cut exposure/ investment with China. Japan got burned in China…it appears China is under estimated Japan capacity as a super power too…It’s better to dialog with respect no matter how big or small a country…Nobody wins in WAR history tells us….?

  • wakats

    Japan’s new leader, PM Shinzo Abe, said that Japan will not negotiate with beijing over the Senkaku islands (AP 1/10/13)

    Japan has repeatedly scrambled F-15 fighter jets to intercept intruding chinese aircraft over the disputed islands and their destroyers/gunboats,stationed in Okinawa, are always ready to defend their sovereignty from the chinese bullies.

    In due time, we’ll have modern gunboats courtesy of Japan, not so much from Uncle Sam and its ageing and mothballed Hamilton-class cutters stripped of weaponry.


  • okabato

    In case war between China and Japan broke out China will find itself fighting all her neighbors. Militarily China is no match against Japan, US, Australia and Great Britain. All she got is the great equalizer  nuclear bombs which would be her last resort. Russia will just be watching and smiling at the situation China created for herself.

  • blunderact

    With the public position of japan not to negotiate with Japan, China has only two options: 1) recognize japan’s claim or 2) declare war to get the island. 
    Japan seems to face any options that china will choose.

To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.

Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:

c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City,Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94


editors' picks



latest videos