China, Japan Agree To Disagree On Disputed Islands

Nov 7, 2014
Originally published on November 7, 2014 3:02 pm

Beijing and Tokyo have jointly acknowledged their competing claims over the sovereignty of an uninhabited island chain, effectively setting aside a contentious dispute and paving the way to renew high-level contacts two years after China unilaterally froze relations.

The Associated Press reports that China's Foreign Ministry said the two sides agreed they had "different positions" on the islands referred to by Tokyo as the Senkaku chain and by Beijing as the Diaoyus. The two sides would "gradually resume political, diplomatic and security dialogues," it said. Japan's Foreign Ministry released a similarly worded statement.

The New York Times says: "The agreement is the first public declaration by the two countries that they are seeking better relations and want to end the prolonged standoff, which has damaged their economic ties and at times seemed to bring them close to conflict."

Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe are widely expected to hold a meeting during the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit next week in Beijing. Abe said a meeting with his Chinese counterpart had yet to be finalized, but that it looked promising.

"Until now the door was closed, unfortunately, but this agreement has achieved a momentum," he said on BS Fuji television, according to AP.

The Senkaku/Diaoyu islands in the East China Sea have been the source of tense naval encounters, especially following a move by Japan to nationalize the islands two years ago. In a tit-for-tat response, China declared an air defense zone over the islands.

Although largely staying out of the fray, President Obama earlier this year suggested that Washington stands behind Tokyo's claim.

The Senkaku/Diaoyu row is just one of several island disputes between China and its maritime neighbors, including Vietnam and the Philippines.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.