Abe says he doesn’t want to worsen China tensions, but islands are Japan’s

Agence France-Presse
Japan and China have been at loggerheads for decades over the sovereignty of a small chain of islands in the East China Sea

TOKYO, Japan – Shinzo Abe, who piloted his Liberal Democratic Party to victory in Sunday’s election, said there is no doubt about Japan’s ownership of islands at the centre of a dispute with China.

“China is challenging the fact that (the islands) are Japan’s inherent territory,” said Abe, who is expected to become prime minister. “Our objective is to stop the challenge. We don’t intend to worsen relations between Japan and China.”

Japan and China have been at loggerheads for decades over the sovereignty of a small chain of islands in the East China Sea.

The dispute flared badly in September after Tokyo nationalised islands that it calls the Senkakus, but China knows as the Diaoyus.

Chinese boats have plied waters near the chain most days since and on Thursday Beijing sent a plane to overfly them. Japan scrambled fighter jets to head it off.

“Japan and China need to share the recognition that having good relations is in the national interests of both countries. China lacks this recognition a little bit. I want them to think anew about mutually beneficial strategic relations,” Abe said on Sunday.

Abe, whose has struck a hawkish pose throughout the election campaign, said his first port of call as prime minister would be the United States.

“We must rebuild the ties of the Japan-US alliance. The Japan-US alliance must come first,” he told private broadcaster Nippon TV.

Tokyo relies on Washington for its security under a post-World War II treaty that allows the US to station tens of thousands of troops in Japan.

But that alliance has been seen to drift under the three-year rule of the Democratic Party of Japan.

He also spoke of the need for Japan to boost its other ties in the region.

“We also need to deepen ties with Asia. I want to build up ties with Asian nations including India and Australia. After enhancing our diplomacy, I want to improve relations with China.” – Agence-France Presse