Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun Gave Briefing to Chinese and Foreign Journalists on the Diaoyu Dao Issue

On 26 October, Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun gave a briefing to Chinese and foreign journalists. He stated China’s position and propositions on the issue of Diaoyu Dao and China-Japan relations and answered questions from the journalists. Thirteen news organizations including Xinhua News Agency, China Central Television, China Radio International and China Daily as well as Reuters of Britain, EFE News Agency of Spain, Wall Street Journal of the United States, Folha de Sao Paulo of Brazil, Asahi Shimbun of Japan, Associated Press of Pakistan, Yonhap News Agency of the Republic of Korea, Lianhe Zaobao of Singapore and Middle East News Agency of Egypt participated in the briefing.

Zhang said that Diaoyu Dao had not been an issue and that there had been no dispute over the sovereignty of Diaoyu Dao in the first place. It was only because Japan illegally seized and occupied Diaoyu Dao in 1895 that the current issue and dispute came into being. Diaoyu Dao is China’s inherent territory historically and legally.

The two sides reached understanding and common ground on “leaving the issue of Diaoyu Dao to be resolved later” at the time of normalization of China-Japan relations in 1972. The Japanese government’s announced “purchase” of Diaoyu Dao in disregard of China’s firm opposition is a gross violation of China’s territorial sovereignty and has had the most severe repercussions on China-Japan relations since the normalization 40 years ago.

Zhang said that Japan has no right to buy or sell Chinese territory in any way and that no transaction is allowed over even one inch of Diaoyu Dao or anything on it. Japan’s “purchase” of the islands, in whatever form, is grave violation of China’s territorial sovereignty. The “purchase” farce had been orchestrated by right-wing forces in Japan. The Japanese government, instead of doing anything to stop the right-wing forces from violating China’s sovereignty and sabotaging China-Japan relations, has stepped in and “purchased” the islands itself. What the right-wing forces had wanted to do and achieve was finally accomplished by the Japanese government.

From the very beginning, China has expressed its adamant opposition to the illegal “purchase” of the islands. Yet the Japanese government has turned a deaf ear to China’s warning. It has insisted on going its way and taken a serious and aggravated move to violate China’s territorial sovereignty. The move outraged the over one billion Chinese people from the mainland, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macao and abroad. The Chinese government has taken a series of forceful measures to safeguard its territorial sovereignty. The Japanese side has miscalculated the situation and underestimated the will and resolve of the Chinese government and people to defend China’s territorial sovereignty. No external threat or pressure could waver, not even in the slightest way, the resolve of the Chinese government and people to uphold China’s territorial sovereignty.

Zhang said that the dangerous political tendency of the Japanese right-wing forces had once plunged Asia into a major disaster. Such forces, if not stopped, will become further emboldened and lead Japan further down a dangerous path. If this tendency should continue, it is not impossible that the historical tragedy will be repeated, and that will throw Asia and the entire world into disaster and will cause eventual trouble to Japan.

Japan has, until this day, remained reluctant to explicitly recognize the nature of that war of aggression. Some Japanese political figures have swaggered into the Yasukuni Shrine and paid tribute there without feeling guilty or ashamed or even scrupling about how the people of the Asian victim countries might have felt. Should Japan continue to act like that, how could it be forgiven by the Asian people and how could its neighboring countries rest assured of it? If Japan cannot face up to history, cannot examine its conscience and sincerely correct its mistakes, no matter how developed its economy is, it will never stand up morally or psychologically.

Zhang said that that China and Japan have maintained contact and consultations on the issue of Diaoyu Dao through various channels and in different forms. On 25 September, the two sides started vice foreign ministerial-level consultations on Diaoyu Dao in Beijing. In the contact and consultations at all levels, China has solemnly stated its government’s serious position on the issue and strong determination to safeguard territorial integrity. China has urged Japan to have a correct reading of the situation, abandon any illusion and face up to reality and correct its mistake with credible steps. Only in this way can the bilateral relations return to the right track.

Zhang said that China has all along maintained that international disputes should be resolved peacefully through dialogue and negotiation. China will not create troubles but neither will it fear troubles. We want to live in friendship with all countries including Japan, but we have to uphold our principles and bottom line. We will never make any concession on issues regarding territorial sovereignty. The first principle of the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence is “mutual respect for each other’s sovereignty and territorial integrity”. On the issue of Diaoyu Dao, we hope the relevant issues will be properly handled through negotiation and dialogue. We do not want to see the situation spin out of control. But this, however, is not to be decided by the Chinese side. Japan must take seriously China’s solemn position and major concerns, and must stop all actions that undermine China’s territorial sovereignty.

Zhang concluded by saying that China always follows an independent foreign policy of peace. China pursues a policy of friendship and partnership with its neighboring countries, and stays committed to the path of peaceful development. China has contributed tremendously to peace, stability and development of the region and will play a bigger and positive role in safeguarding peace and development of Asia and the world at large. However, should anyone want to challenge China’s bottom line on the issue of sovereignty, we will have no alternative but to respond forcefully so as to remove disturbance and obstacles and move steadily on the path of peaceful development.

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