BEIJING Jan 13 Beijing reacted sharply on
Monday to criticism by Japan of new fishing restrictions imposed
by China in the South China Sea, expressing "resolute
dissatisfaction" with a Japanese official's comments at the
weekend, and noting Japan has no direct stake in the issue.
"The person who made these remarks, if he's not ignorant,
then he has ulterior motives," Chinese Foreign Ministry
spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a regular briefing. "I'd like to
recommend that this Japanese official, before making remarks,
should first do some basic research and understand fully China's
laws and regulations."
On Sunday, Japan's Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera said
the fishing rules, approved by China's southern Hainan province
and which came into effect on Jan. 1, had left the international
community jittery, coming so soon after China unilaterally
launched an air defence identification zone late last year.
The new rules require foreign fishing vessels to obtain
approval to enter disputed waters in the South China Sea, which
the local government says are under its jurisdiction.
Hua said the fishing curbs are purely technical amendments
to a 30-year-old fisheries law.
Beijing claims almost the entire oil- and gas-rich South
China Sea and rejects rival claims to parts of it from the
Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam.
The United States last week called the fishing rules
"provocative and potentially dangerous", prompting an earlier
rebuttal from China's foreign ministry.
Ties between China and Japan, the world's second- and
third-largest economies, have been strained due to a
long-running row over ownership of a group of tiny, uninhabited
islands called the Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China.
Tensions were ratcheted up in recent months after Beijing
announced the air defence identification zone covering a large
swathe of the East China Sea, including the disputed isles, and
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited a controversial Tokyo
shrine seen by critics as a symbol of Japan's wartime
Stoking tensions further, three Chinese government ships on
Sunday briefly entered what Japan sees as its territorial waters
near the disputed islands, controlled by Japan but also claimed
by China, the latest in such occasional entries by Chinese
Patrol ships from China and Japan have been shadowing each
other near the islets on and off for months, raising fears that
a confrontation could develop into a clash.
(Reporting by Sui-Lee Wee, Editing by Ian Geoghegan)