Japan's Abe nudges China over territorial disputes

JAKARTA Fri Jan 18, 2013 7:00am EST

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (R) walks after inspecting the honour guard during a welcome ceremony at the Merdeka palace in Jakarta January 18, 2013. Abe is in Indonesia for a one-day state visit. REUTERS/Enny Nuraheni

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (R) walks after inspecting the honour guard during a welcome ceremony at the Merdeka palace in Jakarta January 18, 2013. Abe is in Indonesia for a one-day state visit.

Credit: Reuters/Enny Nuraheni

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JAKARTA (Reuters) - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, pointing a finger at China, said on Friday that disputes plaguing Asia over who owns strings of tiny island groups in the region, had to be resolved legally.

Tokyo's relations with Beijing have chilled over the past few months because of bitter arguments over the ownership of islets in the East China Sea, enough to damage Japan's exports to its giant neighbor, home to the world's second largest economy.

China has also been at odds with several other governments in the region, notably the Philippines and Vietnam, over separate groups of potentially energy-rich islands in the South China Sea, an issue which has caused rare public spats within the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

"There is no question that a rising China is a plus for Japan economically. It is also important for China to behave in a responsible manner in the international society," Abe told reporters in Jakarta at the end of his first overseas visit since becoming prime minister.

Abe ended his trip - which also took him to Vietnam and Thailand - earlier than scheduled to return to Tokyo because of the hostage crisis in Algeria in which 14 Japanese workers are unaccounted for.

The trip was seen as a push by Abe to boost relations with Southeast Asia, home to 600 million people and combined economies worth $2 trillion, which he hopes will help counterbalance the economic and military strength of China and provide Japan's limping economy with new sources of growth.

By leaving early, Abe missed giving what had been billed as a policy speech on his new government's approach to Southeast Asia.

But at the news conference he listed five principles of his ASEAN diplomacy, including an "open ocean, ruled not by power but by law ... and we and ASEAN will protect this with all our might", he said.

It was a concern echoed by his host, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, whose country has no claim on any of the disputed islands but which has frequently expressed worries about the potential for the disputes to turn into military conflict.

"If there are any issues, whether in the South China Sea or East Asia or any part of Asia, the solution must be peaceful, not using military force and referring to international laws," Yudhoyono told reporters.

(Additional reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka in Tokyo, writing by Jonathan Thatcher; Editing by Ron Popeski)

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Comments (6)
Arnleif wrote:
“nudges”? I am quite sure the word “nudges” surely would become “threatens”…..if any government leader outside the western “international community”, like in China, Russia or Iran used such words in diplomatic relations.

Jan 18, 2013 8:11am EST  --  Report as abuse
blah77 wrote:
I find it highly ironic that Abe chose the word ‘legally’. After all, it was the ‘illegal’ wars of aggression and expansionism by Imperial Japan that created this problem in the first place. Lest we forget, the islands Abe referred to didn’t even arrive on the Japanese radar until 1872 when they annexed Okinawa. Some 20 years later, Japan then forced China to turn over those islands as part of the ‘illegal’ Treaty of Shimonseki which they also renounced in its entirety following their WW2 defeat. Then there is also the fact the U.S. uniterally turned over administration of the islands to Japan in 1972, ignoring all international rights China had at the time to dispute the ‘legality’ behind such a move. It is rather amusing how nations only cite the ‘legal’ word when it is to their advantage. Sort of like how we like to point out the ‘freedom of navigation’ article of the UN Law of the Sea even though our own Congress has refused to ratify the treaty a dozen times.

The government of Japan likes to whitewash and downplay their Imperial history while Germany does the exact opposite when it comes to their ‘Third Reich’ chapter. That is the difference between these two nations.

Jan 18, 2013 2:32pm EST  --  Report as abuse
Free_Pacific wrote:
WWII has nothing to do with the Senkaku’s. The Potsdam declaration says territories taken from 1914. Also, Japan never ‘took’ the Senkaku’s, as they were once part of the Ryukyu Kingdom (Was absorbed into Japan. China first mentioned them while SAILING to the kingdom, they never owned them). China confirmed Japanese ownership in 1895 after a brief occupation by China.

Japan has broken no international norms or rules in regard to Japanese territory. The U.S has made clear that these islands are covered by their defence agreements.

The lust for revenge on Japan (Actually just nationalistic rhetoric to gain the oil found in the 70′s, thats when China started making claims) for the sins of their grandparents is criminal.

Jan 18, 2013 8:40pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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