Territorial dispute between China, Japan heats up
TOKYO | A war of words between Japan and China over a territorial dispute escalated Monday, with each country summoning the other’s ambassador and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe calling a newly declared Chinese maritime air defense zone dangerous and unenforceable.
Mr. Abe told a parliamentary session that the zone alters the state of affairs in the East China Sea and escalates tension.
“The measures by the Chinese side have no validity whatsoever for Japan, and we demand China revoke any measures that could infringe upon the freedom of flight in international airspace,” Mr. Abe said. “It can invite an unexpected occurrence and it is a very dangerous thing as well.”
On Saturday, Beijing issued a map of the zone and a set of rules that say all aircraft must notify Chinese authorities and are subject to emergency military measures if they do not identify themselves or obey Beijing’s orders.
Mr. Abe said the measures one-sidedly impose rules set by the Chinese military on all flights in the zone, and violate the freedom to fly above open sea, a general principle under international law. He also slammed China for showing the disputed islands, called Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in Chinese, as Chinese territory in the zone.
Since taking office last year, Mr. Abe has moved to step up Japan’s defenses, citing threats from China’s growing maritime and military presence. Japan has had a similar zone since the 1960s.
Later Monday, Japanese Vice Foreign Minister Akitaka Saiki summoned Chinese Ambassador Cheng Yonghua to protest the move in person, a day after Saiki’s deputy protested to China by phone. Mr. Cheng balked at Japan’s complaint, refusing to retract the measures.
“China believes it is the Japanese side that should withdraw its unreasonable demand,” Mr. Cheng told reporters after meeting with Mr. Saiki. “But both of us should try to take cautionary steps in order to prevent unanticipated occurrences.”
In Beijing, Assistant Foreign Minister Zheng Zeguang met with Japanese Ambassador Kitera Masato to complain.
“The Japanese side is not entitled to make irresponsible remarks and malicious accusations against China,” he said, according to China’s Foreign Ministry. He said Japan should correct its mistakes, stop undermining regional stability and avoid damage to China-Japan relations.
South Korea also complained Monday about the Chinese zone, which includes the airspace above a set of submerged rocks that are controlled by Seoul but also claimed by Beijing.
South Korea’s Defense Ministry summoned China’s military attache in Seoul, saying the zone is unacceptable because it was drawn unilaterally. Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said South Korea’s control over the area remains unchanged and Seoul won’t notify China when its planes pass through the region.
Earlier Monday, China’s Foreign Ministry said it complained to the U.S. over its “irresponsible remarks” about China’s creation of a zone for the disputed islands, which are administered by Japan.
Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force’s surveillance plane flies over the disputed islands in the East China Sea, called the Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China.