Tokyo, Beijing in tense talks on disputed islands

Tokyo, Beijing in tense talks on disputed islands

China claimed islands that are at the core of a row with Japan as its “sacred territory” in talks between the two countries’ foreign ministers, as neither side showed any sign of backing down in a long-festering feud.

Foreign ministers from Tokyo and Beijing met late Sept. 25 on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York to discuss the issue, two weeks after the Japanese government’s purchase of some of the islands from private owners sparked bitter anti-Japanese protests in China and raised tensions between the two Asian giants to their highest level in years.

Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba urged China to exercise restraint at what he called a tense hour-long meeting over the dispute, which triggered violent anti-Japanese protests in China this month and is threatening ties between Asia’s two biggest economies. Yang reiterated China’s “solemn position on the issue of Diaoyu Islands, which have been China’s sacred territory since ancient times.”

‘No magic bullet in diplomacy’

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura told a news conference in Tokyo the two sides had agreed to keep talking. “There is no magic bullet in foreign diplomacy. We need to hold talks through various channels taking into account of broad perspective,” Fujimura told a news conference in Tokyo.
Sino-Japanese relations deteriorated sharply this month after Japan bought the isolated East China Sea islands, called Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, from their private owner, sparking the anti-Japan protests across China. Commentators said the move was an apparent bid to outmaneuver the hawkish governor of Tokyo, who wanted to buy and develop the islands.

Diplomats at the U.N. said that the pair failed to reach a breakthrough in their talks, but both the Chinese foreign ministry and a Japanese official confirmed that the talks would continue.

Their talk was the highest-level meeting between the two sides since the government purchase of the islands earlier this month. Vice ministers from the two countries met in Beijing earlier in the day but also failed to ease the diplomatic tensions. The meeting in New York came just hours after Japanese and Taiwanese coast guard cutters exchanged water cannon blasts just off the islands. Taiwan also claims the islands, which sit astride rich fishing waters and potentially large reserves of natural gas.