China on Tuesday summoned the Japanese Ambassador here and warned it would take “necessary measures” to protect its interests after Japan announced it had purchased disputed East China Sea islands.
Heightening recent strains, Japan announced on Tuesday that it had purchased three uninhabited islands from a family recognised by Tokyo as the owner. China, which holds competing claims to the Diaoyu or Senkaku islands, hit out at the move, seeing it as a provocative assertion of Japanese claims in the long-running dispute.
Beijing said after the announcement that it had dispatched two China Marine Surveillance (CMS) ships to patrol the waters and enforce its claims. Analysts said the developments raised the possibility of a confrontation with Japanese Coast Guards.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry described the Japanese move as “a gross violation of China’s sovereignty” and “highly offensive to the 1.3 billion Chinese people”. Spokesperson Hong Lei told reporters that Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi had summoned the Japanese Ambassador and expressed a strong protest.
“We have solemnly made clear that the so-called purchase of the Diaoyu islands is illegal and invalid, and cannot change the fact that the islands are China’s territory and that Japan stole these islands from China,” he said.
“China will take necessary measures to uphold its national territorial sovereignty. The days when the Chinese nation was bullied and humiliated are long gone. We urge the Japanese side to immediately stop actions and come back 100 per cent to the understanding and consensus reached between the two sides... to resolve the issue through negotiation.”
A Xinhua commentary warned that China “should resolutely fight back”, and welcomed the vessel deployment as “a big blow to the inflated swagger of Japan”.
Tetsuo Kotani, a research fellow at the Tokyo-based Japan Institute of International Affairs (JIIA) said the Japanese move was a more favourable outcome than the plan to buy the islands by Shintaro Ishihara, Governor of Tokyo, known for his hawkish views.
“If the Tokyo government purchases the islands, it will try to construct facilities and put people there,” he said. “But I don’t think the Japanese government will do that. I hope the Chinese government will understand the real intention of the Japanese government.”
With China dispatching surveillance vessels, Mr. Kotani said a “worst case scenario” would be a confrontation. “Under the bilateral agreement, Chinese fishing boats can conduct fishing in the Exclusive Economic Zone around the Senkaku islands but not in the territorial waters,” he said. “If they do, the Coast Guard would need to enforce domestic law.”
“The Chinese fishery control vessel may try to intervene and there may be some accident,” he added. “If Japan then decides to send a self-defence force and the PLA Navy intervenes, that would be a worst case scenario.”