East China Sea: Japan asks China to take down digital museum on disputed island

The Japanese government has lodged a protest against China's new digital "museum" that underscores Beijing's claims to the Senkaku Islands or Diaoyudao Islands called by Chinese in the East China Sea.
October 06, 2020 | 07:20
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The Senkaku/Diaoyu chain comprises eight uninhabited islets in the East China Sea. Photo: AFP

The Senkaku Islands have been recognized historically and under international law as an inherent part of Japan’s territory and we maintain effective control over them,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato was quoted by the Japan Times at a news conference as saying.

China is “not in a position” to create such a website regarding the islets, Kato said, adding that Japan has demanded through diplomatic channels that it be taken down.

The dispute over ownership of the uninhabited islets, which China calls the Diaoyu, has often strained Japan-China relations. China frequently sends coast guard or government ships to nearby waters in a bid to push its claims to them.

China on October 3 launched the digital museum at www.diaoyudao.org.cn, a special website about the Islands.

The digital museum, with a preface hall and three exhibition halls, displays historical pictures, video files, documentation, legal documents, news, academic works and other materials.

It displays the legal and historical proofs that the Islands belong to China and helps viewers further understand the indisputable fact that Islands are China's inherent territory, the website says.

At present, the museum is available only in the Chinese language, but services in English, Japanese, French and other languages will be added at a later date, according to Xinhua news agency.

Japanese, Chinese leaders agree to pursue high-level contacts

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Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga (left) spoke with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the phone. Photos: AFP

In the pair’s first talks this month, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga agreed with Chinese President Xi Jinping to closely cooperate in further developing bilateral ties, despite differences over thorny issues.

“Stable relations between Japan and China are extremely important not only for both countries but for the region and the international community, and that we both have a responsibility in this regard,” Suga, who took office last week, said he told Xi over the phone.

He said the two leaders agreed to “work closely together at a high level” going forward.

The talks came amid heightened tensions between China and the United States, Japan’s principal security ally, and a simmering territorial dispute between Tokyo and Beijing over the Senkaku Islands, the Japan Times said.

During the roughly 30-minute talks, Suga expressed concern over the situation in the East China Sea and issues that are of great interest to the international community including Hong Kong, and told Xi that he wants to discuss them in the future, a Japanese official told a press briefing.

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According to the Japan Times, Tokyo has repeatedly protested Beijing’s sending of government ships and fishing boats near the Senkakus. | JAPAN COAST GUARD / VIA KYODO

Tokyo has repeatedly protested Beijing’s sending of government ships and fishing boats near the Senkakus.

Earlier this year, Beijing introduced a sweeping national security law in the semiautonomous territory of Hong Kong, prompting Japan and other countries to express “grave concern” over an erosion of freedoms.

Xi expressed his desire to advance bilateral relations, Suga told reporters outside of his official residence, adding that they did not discuss plans for the Chinese president to visit Japan as a state guest.

The trip had been planned for spring this year but was postponed indefinitely due to the global coronavirus pandemic, and some ruling party lawmakers are now calling for it to be canceled altogether.

Earlier, Kato said the countries are currently “not at the stage of setting a date” for the visit.

Suga and Xi affirmed their cooperation on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, including Japan’s efforts to retrieve nationals who were abducted by Pyongyang’s agents in the 1970s and 1980s, the Japanese official said.

They also agreed to work together on tackling the pandemic and to seek the resumption of business travel between the countries at an early date amid COVID-19 restrictions.

Xi was quoted by China’s state-run media as telling Suga that Beijing will support Tokyo to successfully host next summer’s Olympics in the Japanese capital.

The last time the leaders of the neighboring countries spoke was when former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met with Xi in Chengdu, China, last December. Xi last held phone talks with a Japanese leader in May 2018.

In a news conference following his inauguration, Suga vowed to pursue a “free and open Indo-Pacific,” a concept Abe had pushed as a counter to China’s growing maritime assertiveness, while maintaining stable relations with neighboring countries./.

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