BEIJING, June 29 China's Foreign Ministry
lambasted Japan on Wednesday after a confrontation between a
Taiwanese fishing boat and a Japanese coast guard vessel near a
group of disputed islands in the East China Sea.
"The Diaoyu Islands and attached islets have been Chinese
territory since ancient times, and China has incontrovertible
sovereignty over them," ministry spokesman Hong Lei said in a
brief statement on the ministry's website (www.mfa.gov.cn).
"Any actions taken by Japan in the seas around the Diaoyu
Islands are illegal and invalid," he added, referring to the
incident with the fishing boat.
China and Japan have bickered for years over the group of
uninhabited islets in the East China Sea, known as Senkaku in
Japan and Diaoyu in China, which are also claimed by Taiwan.
Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told a news
conference in Tokyo that the Japanese Coast Guard found a
Taiwanese fishing boat approaching the islands and warned the
boat not to enter Japanese waters.
"From the viewpoints of history and international law, there
is no doubt that the Senkaku islands are our inherent
territory," Edano said.
The Japanese Coast Guard could not be reached for comment.
Japan's Yomiuri newspaper said that the boat was carrying
several activists calling for the assertion of Taiwan's
sovereign rights over the islands, and that it left the area
later on Wednesday morning.
China considers self-ruled and democratic Taiwan part of its
territory, and has in the past weighed in over disputes between
Taiwanese and Japanese ships around the islands.
Activists from China, Taiwan and Hong Kong periodically try
and visit the seas around the islands, or even the islands
themselves, to promote sovereignty claims.
In September 2010, Japan detained a Chinese trawler captain
after his boat collided with Japanese coastguard ships near the
isles. Beijing cancelled diplomatic meetings with Tokyo in
protest until he was released.
The two countries are also at odds over China's exploration
for natural gas in the same seas. In 2008, they agreed to
resolve the feud by jointly developing gas fields.
But progress has been slow and Japan has accused China of
drilling for gas in violation of the deal.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard in Beijiing and Yoko Kubota in
Tokyo; Editing by Yoko Nishikawa)