温首相尖閣発言 「核心的利益」は穏やかでない

The Yomiuri Shimbun (May. 17, 2012)
Wen's 'core interests' remark over Senkakus a cause for concern
温首相尖閣発言 「核心的利益」は穏やかでない(5月16日付・読売社説)

China is reinforcing its hard-line stance over the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture against a backdrop of swelling military strength and economic wealth.

During a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda in Beijing on Sunday, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao reportedly mentioned the issues of the island chain, along with the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, where there is an ongoing separatist movement. Wen reportedly stressed that it is important for Japan to respect "China's core interests and major concerns."

China uses "core interests" to describe national sovereignty, maintenance of territorial integrity and other areas over which it will make no compromise at any price. Beijing has applied the expression to Taiwan, Tibet and the Uygur region before, but in recent years, it has reportedly used the term in regard to the South China Sea.

The Chinese government has never officially used the expression for the Senkaku Islands. However, the People's Daily, the official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party, used "core interests" in connection with the islands for the first time in January this year.


Semantic tactic

Wen is thought to have used "core interests" and "major concerns" together in referring to the Senkaku Islands so that his remark could be taken to mean the islets are part of China's core interests.

In making the remark, the Chinese premier seems to have been thinking of the Chinese public's negative reaction to recent developments over the Senkakus--Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara's announcement that his government plans to purchase part of the islands and the Japanese government's decision to give names to four uninhabited islets of the chain.

Wen's remark can be seen as a reflection of the Chinese government's increasingly assertive stance in claiming sovereignty over the Senkaku Islands as Beijing tries to expand its maritime interests.

China demonstrates its presence by sending fishery patrol vessels to waters near the islands almost every month. Japan should further reinforce its surveillance arrangements for the nation's remote islands and territorial waters.

It is natural for Noda to remind Wen that the Senkaku Islands are part of Japan's sovereign territory and call for self-restraint on China's part, saying, "China's stepped-up activities [around the islands] are upsetting the Japanese public."

At the same time, it is regrettable that China refused Japan's request for a one-on-one meeting between Noda and Chinese President Hu Jintao. The rebuff was apparently a signal of China's dissatisfaction over not only the Senkaku issue, but also Japan's issuance of visas to Uygurs exiled from the autonomous region to attend an international assembly being held in Tokyo.


Many pending issues

Japan and China, which mark the 40th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic relations this year, face a pile of pending issues.

Despite Japan's repeated requests, China has not agreed to resume negotiations on joint development of gas fields in the East China Sea since the 2010 collision of a Chinese trawler with Japan Coast Guard vessels off the Senkaku Islands.

Also dubious was China's stance over North Korea's nuclear activities when the leaders of Japan, China and South Korea held summit talks Sunday. A joint declaration was initially scheduled to be released in tandem with the meeting, but it was not unveiled until the following day--and then it did not refer to North Korea at all.

The delay was reportedly caused by China, which seemed reluctant to produce a document that would urge North Korea to exercise the self-restraint not to carry out a new nuclear test or other provocative actions because it wanted to avoid angering Pyongyang.

Considering such a stance, it is only natural to question whether China has a will to prevent North Korea from conducting a nuclear test.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 16, 2012)
(2012年5月16日01時28分 読売新聞)

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