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Japan PM open to talks - not concessions - with China
by Staff Writers
New York, United States (AFP) Sept 28, 2013


Four China coastguard ships in disputed waters: Japan
Tokyo (AFP) Sept 27, 2013 - Chinese ships sailed through disputed waters Friday, Japan's coastguard said, a week after Beijing said talks on the corrosive row were possible if Tokyo acknowledged the existence of a disagreement.

The four Chinese coastguard vessels went into territorial waters off one of the Tokyo-controlled Senkaku islands -- which Beijing calls the Diaoyus -- at about 3:00 pm (0600 GMT), the Japanese coastguard said.

The ships left the zone about three hours later, it said.

It was the first such incident reported in eight days.

Often-testy ties have soured dramatically since Tokyo's nationalisation of part of the chain a year ago, with frequent confrontations between official ships from both sides.

Japan annexed what it says were the unclaimed islands in 1895. It says China's assertion of ownership only came after the discovery of resources in the seabed at the close of the 1960s.

Beijing maintains that the islands have been its territory for hundreds of years and were illegally snatched by Tokyo at the start of an acquisitive drive across Asia that culminated in World War II.

Last week China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Beijing was prepared to sit down with Tokyo as long as Japan acknowledged there was a dispute over the sovereignty of the islands.

Tokyo is reluctant to recognise any dispute for fear it would give a measure of legitimacy to China's claim by indicating there is a prima facie case to answer.

China, ASEAN must end island disputes 'swiftly': Kerry
New York City (AFP) Sept 27, 2013 - US Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday urged China and its Asian neighbors to resolve territorial disputes over the South China sea as swiftly as possible.

"Your region is home to the world's busiest ports and the most critical sea lanes. So stability where you live matters deeply to prosperity where we live," Kerry told a meeting with ASEAN foreign ministers in New York.

"That's one of the reasons why the United States is so committed to maritime security, to the freedom of navigation on the seas, and to resolving the disputes with respect to territory and achieving a code of conduct," he said.

"This is going to require respect for international law and unimpeded lawful commerce in the South China Sea."

The top US diplomat urged the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to "move as swiftly as possible to reach a binding code of conduct for addressing disputes, without threats, without coercion and without use of force."

Earlier this month, Beijing warned the United States not to support its neighbors' claims to disputed islands in the East and South China Seas and to stay out of the rows.

Washington has always refused to take sides, but is keen to see its Asian partners adopt a code of conduct for navigation in some of the world's busiest shipping lanes.

Sino-Japanese ties have soured dramatically since Tokyo nationalized some of the Senkaku islands, which Beijing claims and calls the Diaoyus, in the East China Sea a year ago.

China also claims almost all of the South China Sea including waters close to its neighbors' coasts, and tensions with the Philippines and Vietnam have intensified in recent years.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday ruled out concessions on sovereignty in a tense territorial row with China, but appealed to Beijing for talks to work through their differences.

Abe rejected a recent appeal from China which said it was ready for dialogue if Japan acknowledged that a set of islands -- known as the Senkakus in Japanese and the Diaoyus in Chinese -- were disputed.

"The Senkakus are an inherent part of the territory of Japan in light of historical facts and based upon international law and the islands are under the valid control of Japan," Abe told reporters in New York after taking part in the UN General Assembly.

"To our regret, incursions by Chinese government vessels in our territorial waters are continuing. But Japan will not make a concession on our territorial sovereignty," he said.

Abe, however, said that Japan sought calm and "we do not intend to escalate this issue any further."

He called for cooperation with China, saying that the relationship between Asia's two largest economies was critical for the region's security.

"The door to dialogue is always open and I really hope that the Chinese side would take a similar attitude and mindset," Abe said.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, speaking ahead of the UN General Assembly, said he supported talks but that Japan first had to declare that the islands in the East China Sea are disputed.

"The whole world knows that there is a dispute," Wang said at the Brookings Institution in Washington last week.

In a speech Friday to the UN General Assembly, Wang said that China was open to talks on territorial disputes but would also "firmly safeguard" its sovereignty.

"We sincerely hope to properly resolve them through negotiation and consultation with countries directly resolved," Wang said.

"Those disputes that cannot be resolved now can be shelved for future resolution," he said.

Vietnam warns of incidents

Abe, a conservative who is the politically strongest Japanese leader in nearly a decade, has stepped up defense spending and advocated a firm line with China.

In an earlier speech to the Hudson Institute in New York, Abe said officially pacifist Japan should no longer be a "weak link" in global security nor for its ally the United States.

Japanese officials have voiced alarm at the rising number of Chinese ships that have approached the waters, charging that Beijing is using intimidation to challenge Tokyo.

Both countries claim the islands, whose status is linked in the view of many Chinese to Japan's past expansionism in Asia.

Japan says that China only took an interest in the islands when potentially lucrative energy reserves were discovered nearby several decades ago.

China is locked in an array of disputes with its neighbors, including the Philippines and Vietnam over islands in the South China Sea.

Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung told the UN General Assembly tha his country sought a "peaceful resolution."

"The East China Sea and East Sea of Vietnam (South China Sea) still rage with territorial disputes. Just one single incident or ill-conceived act could trigger conflict, even war," he said.

US Secretary of State John Kerry, meeting Friday with foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, urged them to quickly agree a code of conduct with Beijing that would manage incidents on the South China Sea.

"Your region is home to the world's busiest ports and the most critical sea lanes. So stability where you live matters deeply to prosperity where we live," Kerry said.

The United States says that it takes no position on sovereignty disputes, but it recognizes that Japan effectively controls the islands claimed by China, meaning that Washington is required by treaty to defend its ally in a conflict.

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