China and Japan
have stepped up a war of words in their long-running row over the sovereignty of East China
Sea islands after Tokyo summoned Beijing’s ambassador to protest China
’s activities in the disputed waters.
The Japanese Foreign Ministry said in a Tuesday statement that it had summoned Chinese Ambassador to Tokyo Cheng Yonghua, urging Beijing to withdraw its vessels from the waters as a measure to reduce tensions there.
Japan’s coastguard said recently that it spotted Chinese vessels swarming around the contested islets, claiming that some of the ships appeared to be armed.
China, which claims the uninhabited East China Sea islets– known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China– occasionally sends its coastguard vessels close to them.
Following the meeting, Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said he told the Chinese envoy that the relations between the two countries were “deteriorating markedly,” reiterating that Beijing was not allowed to send its ships into what Tokyo considers its territorial waters around disputed East China Sea islets.
Kishida also accused China of “unilaterally” increasing tensions in the region.
In turn, the Chinese diplomat said he told Kishida that the islands were an “integral part of Chinese territory and that it is natural that Chinese ships conduct activity in the waters in question.”
Cheng also asserted that the dispute between the two sides should be resolved through diplomacy and dialogue.
The Chinese envoy was also called in by Japanese Vice Foreign Minister Shinsuke Sugiyama on Friday.
This picture show a Chinese ship sailing near the disputed waters of the East China Sea islands on August 7, 2016. ©AFP
China’s Foreign Ministry said last week that the country had indisputable sovereignty over the islands and nearby waters, urging Japan to make “constructive efforts for stability” and avoid taking actions that might complicate the situation.
In its annual defense review released last week, Japan claimed that China’s activities in the East China Sea caused Tokyo to scramble warplanes to the area more than 570 times last year.
Japan has also sided with Beijing’s rivals in a separate maritime dispute between China and a number of its neighbors in the South China Sea.
Tokyo says Beijing should respect a recent international arbitration ruling, which dismissed China’s sweeping claims in the sea.
The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled last month that China’s claims to sovereignty over the disputed areas in the sea or its resources “had no legal basis,” in a case brought by the Philippines.
However, Beijing rejects the verdict, arguing that the tribunal has no jurisdiction over the issue.