Japan said Thursday that it intends to seek compensation from China for damages caused to its diplomatic missions during the recent anti-Japan protests over a disputed group of islands claimed by both nations.
"Regarding damage to our embassies and consulates, we plan to demand compensation [from China] as it is an issue between the governments," Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura was quoted as telling reporters at a news conference in Tokyo on Thursday.
Stressing that "this was an issue between the government," Fujimura said any damage to Japanese property in China should be handled under local laws. He added that Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda is planning to send a special envoy to China as part of efforts aimed at resolving "the issue cool-headedly through various diplomatic routes."
Separately, China's state-run Xinhua news agency quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei as saying that Beijing is wiling to pay compensation for the damages caused to Japanese interests in China during the protests. He stressed that relevant cases would be handled appropriately under Chinese laws.
The disputed group of uninhabited islands, known as Senkaku in Japan, is under the administrative jurisdiction of Ishigaki city in the Okinawa prefecture. The islands, also known as Diaoyu in China and Tiaoyutai in Taiwan, are claimed by all the three countries as the region surrounding them is oil-rich and close to key international shipping routes.
Tensions between the two countries escalated last week after Japanese government announced that it had purchased three of the disputed islands for 2.05 billion yen (about $26 million) from Japanese businessman Kunioki Kurihara who claims to own them.
Japan said that the move was intended "to maintain and manage the islands in a peaceful and stable manner for ensuring safe navigation" in and around the waters surrounding the islands. Tokyo also insisted that transferring the islands' ownership from an individual to the state government will not pose problems to any other country or territory.
Nevertheless, China slammed Japan's move to "purchase" the Diaoyu and two of its adjacent islands. Beijing stressed that Diaoyu and its affiliated islands were China's inherent territory, pointing out that the country has sufficient historical and jurisprudential evidence to back its claims. China also warned that Japan's "unlawful purchase" of the islands would affect bilateral economic and trade relations between the two nations.
Subsequently, anti-Japan protests broke out across China last week. They intensified last Tuesday, when thousands took to the streets to mark the 81st anniversary of a 1931 incident that led to Japan's occupation of north-eastern China. The protests saw many Japanese interests and businesses in China being attacked and vandalized, forcing several Japanese companies to halt operations at their Chinese factories. Incidentally, the protests appeared to have died out by Wednesday.
Nevertheless, dispute over the islands has already cast a shadow over China-Japan trade, with sales of Japanese products, especially automobiles and electronics, dropping sharply in China in recent weeks. China ranks as Japan's largest trading partner, with the latter being China's fourth largest.
The United States has urged China and Japan not to escalate their row over the group of East China Sea islands, warning that any tension between the two large economies would have serious global repercussions. Washington stressed that it would not take sides in the dispute despite being an ally of Japan.
by RTT Staff Writer
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