Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda speaks at a news conference in New York September 26, 2012. Japan will not compromise on ownership, Noda said on Wednesday. Photo: Reuters
Japan will not compromise on the islands at the heart of a dispute with China as Tokyo already has sovereignty over them, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said on Wednesday after China's foreign minister angrily declared the islets were "sacred territory."
"As for the Senkakus (Diaoyu Islands called in Japan), they are an inherent part of our territory in light of history and also under international law," Noda said of the rocky islets China claims as the Diaoyu Islands in a bitter spat between Asia's two biggest economies.
"There are no territorial issues as such. Therefore, there cannot be any compromise that represents a retreat from this position," he told a news conference in New York after attending the U.N. General Assembly.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said that some individual country has ignored the historical facts and international laws, openly violated territorial sovereignty of other countries, and openly denied the result of the world anti-fascist war.
Qin made the comments early Thursday morning on the speech of Noda at the UN General Assembly.
"The country seriously challenges the post-war international order, but tries to take the rules of international law as a cover. This is self-deceiving. The country concerned must face up to history and earnestly abide by international legal principles, and cease all actions that infringe the territorial integrity and sovereignty of other countries," said Qin.
Earlier on Wednesday, Chinese state media said China had claimed the uninhabited and remote islands in the East China Sea as its "sacred territory since ancient times" in talks between the two countries' foreign ministers in New York.
Sino-Japanese relations have deteriorated sharply since Japan bought the islands from their private owner, hurting bilateral trade ties and tourism while sparking protests across China.
In hour-long talks on the sidelines of the United Nations on Tuesday night, Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba urged China to exercise restraint over the dispute. Japanese diplomats described the meeting as "tense," as Gemba endured a stern lecture from Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi.
Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura told a news conference in Tokyo the two sides had agreed to keep talking.
China's meetings with Japanese diplomats - both at the United Nations and in Beijing - suggest that Beijing does not want the row over the island chain to lead to a rupture in relations, in what has been dubbed the Year of Japan-China Friendship.
However, patrol vessels from Japan and China have been playing a tense game of cat-and-mouse in the waters near the disputed islands, raising concerns that an unintended collision or other incident could escalate into a broader clash.
"The Japanese move is a gross violation of China's territorial integrity and sovereignty, an outright denial of the outcomes of victory of the world anti-fascist war and a grave challenge to the post-war international order," China's official Xinhua news agency quoted Foreign Minister Yang as saying.