Japan PM has no plans to meet with Chinese counterpart at Asia-Europe summit next week

By Shino Yuasa, AP
Tuesday, September 28, 2010

No Japan-China meeting planned at Europe summit

TOKYO — Japan’s prime minister has no plans to meet his Chinese counterpart at an Asian-European summit next week, Tokyo said Tuesday, as it reasserted its sovereignty over disputed islands at the center of a territorial spat between the neighbors.

The Japanese government would be open to the possibility of talks between Prime Minister Naoto Kan and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao at the ASEM summit, or Asia-Europe Meeting, to be held in Brussels on Oct. 4-5, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku told reporters Tuesday.

However, Sengoku said conditions for such a meeting have not yet been met. He declined to elaborate on those conditions, but reiterated Tokyo’s position that it is up to China to repair relations that have frayed over Japan’s detention of a Chinese fishing boat captain earlier this month.

“It is unclear whether we can have such conditions within one week,” Sengoku said. “As I said yesterday, the ball is already in China’s court.”

Wen and Kan did not meet in New York last week when they were both attending a U.N. gathering.

Kan’s government has come under fire at home for Japan’s decision Friday to release the fishing boat captain amid intense Chinese pressure. The skipper was arrested earlier this month after colliding with two Japanese patrol boats near islands in the East China Sea that the Chinese call Diaoyu and Japanese call Senkaku. Japan controls the islands but China and Taiwan also claim them.

The captain’s release on Friday failed to ease tensions after China demanded an apology for his detention and compensation over the weekend. Tokyo countered Monday by demanding that Beijing pay for damage to the patrol boats.

Beijing has not yet responded to Tokyo’s demand for compensation, but has cut off ministerial level contacts with Japan and called Tokyo’s ambassador in at least five times over the incident.

Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda said it was important for Japan for appeal to the international community over Japan’s position at meetings like ASEM.

Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara, meanwhile, repeated Tokyo’s clear claim over the islands, which are located 120 miles (190 kilometers) east of Taiwan.

“Territorial problems do not exist in the East China Sea,” Maehara told parliamentary committee Monday. “The Senkaku islands are an inherent part of our territory, and protecting our sovereignty is a natural thing to do.”

Video of the Sept. 7 encounter has not been released, but Maehara said it was “clear that the Chinese fishing boat steered (toward the coast guard vessels) and slammed into the boats.”

Demonstrating Washington’s support of Japan, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell on Monday praised Kan’s handling of the dispute.

“Prime Minister Kan has dealt with this issue — it’s a very difficult issue — in a very statesmanlike fashion. And it shows how important it is for peaceful diplomatic process to be conducted on issues like this.”

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