Saturday, September 15, 2012

• China sends patrol ships to islands held by Japan


China sends patrol ships to islands held by Japan
by OUISE WATT - Associated Press (AP) - Posted September 11, 2012 at 5:20 p.m


BEIJING (AP) — A territorial flare-up between China and Japan intensified as two Beijing-sent patrol ships arrived near disputed East China Sea islands in a show of anger over Tokyo's purchase of the largely barren outcroppings from their private owners.

The China Marine Surveillance has drawn up a plan to safeguard China's sovereignty of the islands and the ships were sent to assert those claims, China's official Xinhua News Agency said Tuesday. The marine agency is a paramilitary force whose ships are often lightly armed.

The rocky islands, known as Senkaku to Japanese and Diaoyu to Chinese, have been the focus of recurring spats between the countries and also are claimed by Taiwan. The China-Japan dispute has been heating up in recent months, in part because the nationalist governor of Tokyo proposed buying the islands and developing them.

Japan's central government announced its own deal this week with the Japanese family it recognizes as the owner. Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura told reporters the government budgeted 2.05 billion yen ($26 million) for the purchase "to maintain the Senkakus peacefully and stably."

Public broadcaster NHK said the government and the family signed a deal Tuesday.

Beijing responded to the move with fury.

"The determination and the will of the Chinese government and military to safeguard their territorial integrity are firm," Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Geng Yansheng said in a statement. "We are closely monitoring the development of the situation and reserve the right to take necessary measures."

Japan has claimed the islands since 1895. The U.S. took jurisdiction after World War II and turned them over to Japan in 1972. But Beijing sees the purchase as an affront to its claims and its past calls for negotiations.

Japan does not plan to develop the islands, in contrast with the proposal made by Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara.

"Ishihara put the national government in a very difficult spot. He pushed them into doing this now," said Sheila Smith, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington. But she said this was a "good outcome" that should be seen as an attempt by Tokyo to sideline Ishihara.

Japan cannot afford to let the dispute hinder its vital ties with China, its top trading partner, Smith said.

The United States urged Japan and China to solve the dispute through dialogue. Japan is a staunch U.S. ally, but Washington says it does not take a position on the conflicting territorial claims. It also does not want to further strain its own relations with China.

"In the current environment we want cooler heads to prevail," Kurt Campbell, the top U.S. diplomat for East Asia, said in Washington. "This (the Asia-Pacific) is the cockpit of the global economy and the stakes could not be bigger. The desire is for all leaders to keep that in mind."

Carlyle Thayer, an expert on regional security at the University of New South Wales in Australia, said the sending of the Chinese patrol boats "ups the stakes."

"It's a tit-for-tat response because China is extremely sensitive about sovereignty matters," he said.

Japan's coast guard said it has not taken any special measures in response to the Chinese patrol boats although it continues to monitor the situation.

Thayer said the Chinese boats would likely stop short of entering the 12 nautical miles around the islands that are considered territorial waters and administered by Japan.

"Japan has a pretty robust navy, a very strong and active professional coast guard. What is possible are the kinds of confrontations like occurred at Scarborough Shoal," a disputed reef where Chinese and Philippine boats faced off earlier this year.

"It's all posturing. It's a game of who blinks first," Thayer said.

Beijing's anger has been accompanied by heated reporting in China's state media. Reactions to Japanese actions are sometimes overstated in China, and a commentator in the People's Liberation Army Daily, the main newspaper of China's military, called Japan's move "the most blatant challenge to China's sovereignty since the end of World War II."

About a dozen protesters gathered outside the Japanese Embassy in Beijing chanting, "Japan, get out of China." Xinhua reported that people had also taken to the streets to protest in two cities in the south and east.

Taiwan's Foreign Ministry also lodged a strong protest to Japan. It called the island purchase an "extremely unfriendly move" that "not only harms the longtime cooperation between Taiwan and Japan but will also aggravate regional tensions in East Asia."

Top Japanese government officials maintain that the flare-up hasn't affected official ties with China. Deputy Prime Minister Katsuya Okada said activists on both sides were fanning emotions.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda met only briefly with Chinese President Hu Jintao on the sidelines of this past weekend's Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Vladivostok, Russia. Japanese news reports said Noda emphasized the importance of dealing with the island dispute from a broad perspective.

China also has announced coordinates marking out the waters off the Diaoyu Islands that it considers its territory, apparently for the first time after doing so earlier for the mainland and other islands.

The coordinates are another step, along with recent announcements of China's intention to use law enforcement vessels, to defend its sovereignty claim, said Stephanie Kleine-Ahlbrandt, northeast Asia project director for the International Crisis Group.

In Tokyo, Gov. Ishihara said he would release 1.4 billion yen ($18 million) donated toward his islands purchase plan to the central government, but only once it was clear whether it would heed his calls to build a port or other facilities.

He also suggested that Japan cooperate with the Philippines and Vietnam, which have their own territorial disputes with China in the South China Sea.

"We shouldn't see this as an issue that only concerns Japan," he said.




China Sends Ships to Disputed Islands
by BY BRIAN SPEGELE IN BEIJING AND ALEXANDER MARTIN IN TOKYO


Two Chinese-government vessels reached waters near the disputed Senkaku islands as Beijing continued directing angry rhetoric at Tokyo, a day after Japan announced plans to purchase three of the islands from private owners.

The state-run Xinhua news agency said two China Marine Surveillance vessels had reached waters near the Japanese-controlled Senkaku on Tuesday morning in order to "assert the country's sovereignty." The islands in the East China Sea are known in Chinese as Diaoyu.

The Japanese Coast Guard said Tuesday it hadn't been able to confirm the presence of Chinese ships near the islands.





Japan PM Noda tells Self-Defence Forces to be prepared for any emergency
BEIJING - China's Defence Ministry yesterday vowed to guard its territorial sovereignty as Beijing sent two patrol ships near a disputed group of islands in the East China Sea that have been bought by the Japanese government, the most serious escalation in the dispute to date.

The strong statements out of China prompted Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda to put Japan's Self-Defence Forces on alert to deal with any emergency, although no reference was made to China's warnings.

The Chinese military's top newspaper, the People's Liberation Army Daily, reacted to the island purchase by accusing Japan of "playing with fire" and posing the "most blatant challenge to China's sovereignty since the end of World War II".

Chinese Defence Ministry spokesman Geng Yansheng warned that more unspecified steps could follow. 

He said: "The determination and the will of the Chinese government and military to safeguard their territorial integrity are firm. We are closely monitoring the development of the situation and reserve the right to take necessary measures."

Beijing's anger has been accompanied by heated reporting in its state media, which has even started broadcasting a daily marine weather report for the islands.

Small protests against Japan broke out in front of the tightly-guarded Japanese embassy in Beijing and outside the Japanese Consulate General in Guangzhou. 

About 200 people marched in Weihai in Shandong province, singing the Chinese national anthem, state-run Xinhua news agency said.

The tension comes ahead of a sensitive anniversary next week of the Sept 18 incident in Shenyang in 1931, when Japanese forces attacked the barracks of Chinese troops. Protests have often been held in China to mark the event, which led to the start of the Japanese invasion and occupation that lasted 14 years.

The Chinese patrol boats sent to the islands - which it calls Diaoyu but are known as Senkaku in Japan - were from the China Marine Surveillance, a paramilitary force in charge of enforcing law and order in Chinese waters, which operates separately from the navy. Its ships are often lightly armed.

But Mr Carlyle Thayer, an expert on regional security at the University of New South Wales in Australia, said the deployment "ups the stakes".

"It's a tit-for-tat response because China is extremely sensitive about sovereignty matters," he said, adding that the Chinese boats would likely stop short of entering the 12 nautical miles around the islands that are considered territorial waters and administered by Japan. 

"Japan has a pretty robust navy, a very strong and active professional coast guard. What is possible are the kinds of confrontations like those that occurred at Scarborough Shoal" - a disputed reef where Chinese and Philippine boats faced off earlier this year.

"It's all posturing. It's a game of who blinks first," Mr Thayer said.

PEACEFUL INTENTIONS
Tokyo insisted it had only peaceful intentions in making the ¥2.05-billion (S$32.4-million) purchase of three of the five islets that it has been leasing from the Kurihara family, which bought the islands in 1972 from another Japanese family that had controlled them since the 1890s. 

The government already owns one of the remaining islets and continues to lease one from the Kurihara family.

Japanese Premier Noda floated the plan to buy the islets in July to head off what appeared to be a much more provocative bid by Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara, a harsh critic of China, to purchase them and make the islands available for development.

Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba yesterday repeated Japan's line that the purchase served "peaceful and stable maintenance of the islands".

"We cannot damage the stable development of the Japan-China relationship because of that issue. Both nations need to act calmly and from a broad perspective," he told reporters.

The Japanese Coast Guard will administer the islands, which are near rich fishing grounds and potentially huge maritime gas fields. It said it has not taken any special measures in response to the Chinese patrol boats although it continues to monitor the situation.

But Mr Noda yesterday ordered the Self-Defence Forces to be fully prepared for any emergency, in an address to senior military officers.

He made no direct reference to the islands dispute, though he pointed to China's growing military clout as one of the challenges Japan had to contend with.

In Tokyo, Mr Ishihara renewed his calls for the islands to be developed for future use by fishermen. He also suggested that Japan cooperate with the Philippines and Vietnam, which also have disputes with China in the South China Sea. 

"We shouldn't see this as an issue that only concerns Japan," he said.

Meanwhile, Taiwan's Foreign Ministry also lodged a strong protest to Japan. It called the island purchase an "extremely unfriendly move" that "not only harms the longtime cooperation between Taiwan and Japan but will also aggravate regional tensions in East Asia". AGENCIES