x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

China backs out of ceremony celebrating Japan ties

China postponed a ceremony marking the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties with Japan, because of ongoing territorial dispute, Xinhua news agency reported today.

BEIJING // China today postponed a ceremony marking the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties with Japan because of a territorial dispute.

“Due to the current situation, the Chinese side has decided that the reception commemorating the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations will be postponed until an appropriate time,” the Xinhua news agency quoted an official as saying.

The unnamed official from the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries was referring to the row centring on the Tokyo-controlled Senkaku islands in the East China Sea, which are claimed by Beijing under the name Diaoyu.

The ceremony was due to take place on Thursday.

Asia’s two largest economies have wrangled over the islands since the 1970s, but the dispute flared last month after pro-China activists landed on one of them.

Tensions escalated dramatically after the Japanese government subsequently bought three of them from their private owners.

The Chinese friendship association has a close relationship with China’s foreign ministry. Officials at the ministry refused to immediately confirm the postponement.

A diplomat in Tokyo who declined to be named confirmed Beijing’s decision, saying: “China informed the Japanese side” about the postponement. Hundreds of Japanese on Saturday rallied against Beijing’s handling of the issue, days after anti-Japanese protests saw shops and factories vandalised in China. About 800 demonstrators waved national flags as they marched through downtown Tokyo, denouncing Beijing as a “brute state” and “fascist”.

Protesters marched through the Roppongi entertainment district, near the Chinese Embassy, shouting: “We will never give in to China’s military threat.”

Japan’s coast guard said yesterday that all Chinese marine surveillance vessels had for the first time in about a week withdrawn from waters near the islands, according to the Kyodo news agency.

A day earlier, the coast guard had said it was monitoring seven Chinese ships near the chain, down from 14 on Wednesday.

China’s foreign ministry spokesman, Hong Lei, said on Friday that many of the ceremonies marking the 40th anniversary of Sino-Japanese diplomatic ties had been affected by the dispute.“Many plans have been ruined due to the mistaken actions of the Japanese side and many of the planned commemoration events have been impacted,” Mr Hong said.

“This is something that we do not hope to see. The responsibility lies entirely with the Japanese side.”

In Taiwan, hundreds of demonstrators from right-wing parties and civil groups rallied against Japan’s claims. “Down with Japanese imperialism”, “Diaoyutai is ours, Japanese get out of Diaoyutai” the crowd shouted.