Japan and China meet for “severe” talks over disputed islands
Japanese and Chinese foreign ministers held talks on a row over disputed islands on Tuesday, after protests and threats of cutting economic ties between the countries emerged.
The meeting between Japan’s Koichiro Gemba and China’s Yang Jiechi came as a secondary concern to the United Nations’ General Assembly held in New York.
The Japanese minister described the atmosphere as “severe,” according to the Kyodo News agency. Gemba urged China to exercise restraint.
Jiechi “reiterated China’s solemn position” on the islands, Xinhua news agency reported, calling Japan’s purchase: “a gross violation of China’s territorial integrity and sovereignty”.
The islands, called Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, are controlled by Japan but claimed by both China and Taiwan.
Tensions in the region have been high since Japan purchased the islands from their private Japanese owner.
It has been reported that both Chinese and Taiwanese fishing and surveillance vessels have sailed in and out of waters around the islands, which lie in the East China Sea, in recent days.
On Tuesday, Japanese and Taiwanese ships sprayed water at each other after a Taiwanese fleet entered what Japan claims are its territorial waters.
A Japanese foreign ministry official warned that the presence of such boats risked a “miscalculation” or “accident,” the Associated Press news agency reported.
The row has now led to anti-Japanese protests in Chinese cities and a warning from China that the economic ties between the two countries could be affected.
Several Japanese companies were forced to halt operations this month because of the protests.
On Wednesday, Toyota Motor Corporation confirmed that it was cutting production in China because of a slowdown in its orders and sales.
The row comes at a time when both China and Japan are facing political changes domestically, making it difficult for either side to back down.
A ceremony due to mark 40 years of diplomatic ties between Japan and China has also been cancelled due to the tensions.