BEIJING, April 10 China expressed serious
concern on Wednesday after Japan and Taiwan signed a fishing
agreement for the seas around a disputed group of East China Sea
islands which have been at the centre of an increasingly hostile
stand-off between Beijing and Tokyo.
"We are extremely concerned about Japan and Taiwan
discussing and signing a fishing agreement," Foreign Ministry
spokesman Hong Lei told a daily news briefing.
"We hope that Japan earnestly abide by its promises on the
Taiwan issue and act cautiously and appropriately," he said.
Japan has diplomatic ties only with China and recognises
Taiwan as belonging to China, but it maintains close economic
and cultural relations with Taiwan.
China and Taiwan have been ruled separately since defeated
Nationalist forces fled to the island at the end of a civil war
with the Communists in 1949. China has never renounced the use
of force to bring Taiwan under its control.
While China is generally happy for Taiwan to sign trade and
business agreements with other countries, it looks askance at
any deals that suggest Taiwan is a sovereign country.
Japan agreed with Taiwan to let Taiwanese fishing boats
operate in part of Japan's exclusive economic zone around the
islets that are controlled by Japan, but also claimed by China
The waters around the islands, called the Senkaku in Japan
and Diaoyu in China, are rich fishing grounds and have
potentially huge oil and gas reserves.
The dispute has escalated in recent months to the point
where China and Japan have scrambled fighter jets while patrol
ships shadow each other, raising fear that an unintended
incident could lead to a broader clash.
Ties between Beijing and Taiwan, meanwhile, have warned
rapidly since the China-friendly Ma Ying-jeou was elected the
island's president in 2008.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Additional reporting by Kiyoshi
Takenaka in TOKYO; Editing by Robert Birsel)