Japan’s prime minister has insisted there can be no compromise with China over a disputed set of islands in the East China Sea. China has already accused Japan of infringing on its sovereignty.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said on Wednesday that Tokyo was not prepared to compromise on the question of sovereignty over the Senkaku island archipelago, known in China as Diaoyu.
"So far as the Senkaku islands are concerned, they are an integral part of our territory in the light of history and of international law," Noda (pictured) told reporters at the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
"It is very clear and there are no territorial issues as such. Therefore there cannot be any compromise that could mean any setback from this basic position. I have to make that very clear," he told reporters.
The Japanese government bought three islands in the archipelago as an alternative to a plan by the right-wing mayor of Tokyo, who wanted to buy the islands and build installations on them. Noda insisted this move had been misinterpreted.
'Sacred since ancient times'
The purchase of the islands - which are administered by Japan -has been viewed as highly inflammatory by China, which says they have been a "sacred territory since ancient times."
Noda called for Beijing to protect Japanese citizens and property in the country following violent protests. There have also been anti-Chinese demonstrations in Japan.
The Japanese premier also acknowledged that Taiwan claimed the islands as well - a possible rich source of natural resources - and said Tokyo was keen to protect relations with its neighbors.
Talks between the foreign ministers were held on the sidelines of the assembly on Tuesday, described by officials variously as "tense" and "severe."
Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi reportedly told his Japanese counterpart Koichiro Gemba that Japan was guilty of "severely infringing" Chinese sovereignty, Beijing's foreign ministry said.
rc / lw (AFP, Reuters)