by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) Aug 25, 2011
China defended the actions of two patrol boats near disputed Japanese-administered islands in the East China Sea, state media reported late Wednesday, saying the vessels were protecting Chinese fisherman.
Earlier Japan's coastguard said two Chinese fisheries patrol boats had intruded into a 12-nautical-mile zone around the islands that Japan considers its territorial waters.
It prompted Japan's Vice Foreign Minister Kenichiro Sasae to summon China's Ambassador Cheng Yonghua in protest at the incident, Tokyo's top government spokesman said.
But China's foreign ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said the boats were on a routine patrol and re-iterated Beijing's claim over the islands -- called Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in Chinese -- and which are also claimed by Taiwan.
"Our law enforcement vessels patrolled the waters to maintain normal order for our fishing vessels. China has made its stance regarding the issue clear to the Japanese side," Ma was quoted as saying in a report by Xinhua.
"China has indisputable sovereignty over the Diaoyu Islands and its adjacent islets, which have been an integral part of Chinese territory since ancient times," he added.
His comments came after a senior Japanese official said there was "no question" the islands belong to his nation.
"The Senkaku islands are an integral part of Japanese territory, historically and under international law," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said.
US senator says one-on-one talks not S. China Sea answer
Democratic Senator Jim Webb, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs, told reporters in the Vietnamese capital that incidents in disputed waters would continue unless all the conflicting parties were able to work together.
China has backed one-on-one talks to solve the competing claims.
"A bilateral approach to resolving issues of sovereignty basically means they will never be solved," Webb said, citing the imbalance of power between China and Southeast Asian countries, as well as the complexity of the issues.
Beijing claims essentially all of the South China Sea -- a key global trading route -- and seeks to resolve disputes individually with its rivals, but other countries fear the approach would weaken their bargaining positions.
"The challenge is to find the right forum, the right way to have the discussion, and to have the Chinese agree," said Webb, speaking in Hanoi at the end of a regional tour during which he met Southeast Asian leaders.
"Until we have a formula for a multilateral solution then I think we're going to continue to see these incidents."
In recent months, the Philippines and Vietnam have objected to what they said was Chinese harassment of oil exploration vessels and fishermen in the potentially oil-rich South China Sea, where they have conflicting claims to sovereignty of the Spratlys archipelago.
Taiwan, Brunei and Malaysia have also set out claims over the island group, while Hanoi and Beijing have a further dispute over the more northerly Paracels.
In June the US Senate approved a symbolic resolution, crafted by Webb, that "deplores the use of force" by Chinese vessels in South China Sea territorial disputes and urges a "multilateral, peaceful process to resolve" disagreements.
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