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Japan PM won't 'tolerate' China island challenge
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Feb 22, 2013


China slams Japan's Abe over interview comments
Beijing (AFP) Feb 22, 2013 - China sharply criticised Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday for telling a US newspaper that Beijing had a "deeply ingrained" need to challenge its neighbours over territory.

Abe, visiting the United States for talks with President Barack Obama, told the Washington Post in an interview published Thursday that China uses disputes with Japan and others to shore up its domestic support.

Tensions between the Asian giants are growing over rival claims to a group of small islands in the East China Sea that the Chinese call the Diaoyus and the Japanese refer to as the Senkakus.

Beijing is also at odds with several Southeast Asian countries, including the Philippines, over islands in the South China Sea.

China's confrontational stance risked eventually harming its economy and scaring off foreign investors, Abe said.

"Such behaviour is going to have an effect on their economic activity at the end of the day," the paper quoted him as saying.

"In the case of China, teaching patriotism (is equivalent to) teaching anti-Japanese sentiment," he added.

Beijing fired back, with foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei saying outsiders have no right to criticise how China works.

"Only Chinese people have the right to speak about whether China's political system and development strategy is suitable," he told a regular briefing Friday.

"The great renaissance of the Chinese people cannot be obstructed by anyone," he added, saying that Beijing had demanded a clarification.

Hong was earlier quoted by the state-run Global Times newspaper as saying Chinese officials were "shocked" at Abe's comments.

"It's rare that a country's leader would brazenly distort facts, attack its neighbour and instigate confrontation among countries in the region," Hong said, according to the paper.

The maritime dispute over the uninhabited East China Sea islands, which are administered by Japan but claimed by China and Taiwan, has simmered for decades.

Tensions escalated last year after Tokyo nationalised those islets in the chain it did not already own.

China responded angrily, with violent street demonstrations damaging Japanese businesses and property, and some Japanese citizens reporting being harassed and physically attacked.

Beijing and Tokyo have both scrambled jets to ward off moves by the other side and fishing boats and government patrol ships have played cat-and-mouse in the vicinity of the islands.

Earlier this month, Tokyo alleged that a Chinese frigate locked its weapons-targeting radar on a Japanese destroyer in what it characterised as a dangerous escalation. Beijing denied the charge.

Abe is due to meet Obama on Friday. Japan and the United States have a security treaty and Washington stations some 47,000 troops in Japan.

Last month Hillary Clinton, approaching the end of her term as secretary of state, said Washington does not take sides in the territorial dispute but pointedly cautioned Beijing not to challenge Japan's control over the islands.

China's official Xinhua news agency in a commentary Friday warned the US that backing Tokyo would risk damaging ties with China, urging Washington against "being hijacked" by Japan.

"US support for Japan on the issue would not only damage Washington's credibility as a constructive superpower, but also as an important partner of China on many pressing global issues", the commentary said.

US backing would only encourage Japan "to take further provocative actions, which will definitely send China-Japan relations to new lows and even threaten the peace and stability in East Asia", Xinhua added.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe vowed Friday that he would not "tolerate" any challenge to control over contested islands, after China's growing incursions into the area.

"We simply cannot tolerate any challenge now and in the future. No nation should make any miscalculation or underestimate the firmness of our resolve," Abe said at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

"No one should ever doubt the robustness of the Japan-US alliance."

Speaking after talks at the White House with President Barack Obama, Abe also cautioned that "I have absolutely no intention to climb up the escalation ladder."

He called for the two nations to work on common interests and called Japan's relations with China "among the most important" with any country.

"The doors are always open on my side for the Chinese leaders," Abe said.

The Japanese leader insisted that history and international law proved that the islands -- known as the Senkaku in Japanese and the Diaoyu in Chinese -- "are Japan's sovereign territory."

Abe said that no one contested Japan's sovereignty between 1895, when Tokyo annexed the islands, and 1971, the year before the United States returned the islands along with Okinawa to Japan after seizing them in World War II.

Japan has often charged that China only became interested in the East China Sea territory in recent times after learning that it was potentially rich in oil and gas.

China disputes the Japanese position and argues that it has controlled the islands since the 1368-1644 Ming Dynasty. Taiwan also claims the area.

Japan coastguard says China ship in disputed waters
Tokyo (AFP) Feb 23, 2013 - Japan said a Chinese government ship briefly entered its territorial waters off disputed islands on Saturday, as the Japanese premier vowed he would not tolerate Beijing's incursions into the area.

The fisheries patrol boat entered the waters in the East China Sea at 4:48 pm (0748 GMT) and was sailing some 19 kilometres northwest of Uotsuri, one of the Senkaku islands, Japan's coastguard said in a statement.

But the Chinese ship moved out of the zone after about an hour, watched by a Japanese coastguard vessel, it said.

Beijing claims the Japanese-controlled islands, which it calls the Diaoyus.

The incident was the latest in a series, with Japan claiming in one case that Chinese vessels had locked weapons-targeting radar onto a ship and a helicopter. Beijing denied the charge.

Saturday's incident came as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, now on his first visit to the United States since he took office late December, vowed that he would not tolerate any challenge to control over the contested islands.

"We simply cannot tolerate any challenge now and in the future. No nation should make any miscalculation or underestimate the firmness of our resolve," Abe said Friday in Washington.

Speaking after talks with President Barack Obama at the White House, however, Abe cautioned that "I have absolutely no intention to climb up the escalation ladder".

The dispute between Asia's two largest economies intensified in September when Tokyo nationalised three islands in the chain, in what it said was a mere administrative change of ownership.

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