China launches website to claim islands disputed with Japan

China on Tuesday launched a website for an uninhabited islet chain in the East China Sea that is at the centre of a long dispute with Japan, in its latest bid to assert sovereignty over an archipelago administered by Tokyo.

PTI| Last Updated: Dec 30, 2014, 20:57 PM IST

Beijing: China on Tuesday launched a website for an uninhabited islet chain in the East China Sea that is at the centre of a long dispute with Japan, in its latest bid to assert sovereignty over an archipelago administered by Tokyo.

The dedicated website on the Diaoyu Islands, also called Senkakus by Japan, was launched by China's State Oceanic Administration (SOA).

Featuring a Chinese flag on its front page, the website covers the islands' natural environment and history, through videos, news and academic works.

The website states that the Diaoyu Islands and affiliated islets are "an inherent part of China's territory...And China possesses undisputable sovereign rights over the islands."

It will have editions in English, Japanese, French, German, Spanish, Russian and Arabic, according to SOA.

An official Xinhua news agency report said "territorial disputes over the Diaoyu Islands exist between China and Japan."

The island chain is intensely disputed after Beijing raised vociferous objections to Japan's purchase of the islands from a private Japanese citizen in 2012.

Since then, China has virtually challenged Japan's hold on the islands known to have rich deposits of oil and gas. China has often pressed its naval, coast guard vessels and aircraft to patrol the region despite Tokyo's objections.

Japan's foreign ministry website already has a section on the islands, available in 12 languages.

China's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying today defended the Chinese Coast Guard vessels patrolling the disputed waters and the naval exercises by Chinese ships.

The naval fleet is making routine annual exercises, she said adding that drills have been notified earlier.

She said every country has a right of freedom of navigation and hope that all nations respect this freedom.

Hua said the islands are part of the Chinese territory and it is the official stand taken by China to send the vessels to safeguard the islands.

Three Chinese coast guard vessels reportedly sailed near the islands on December 23 and remained there for three hours.

When asked to leave the region by a Japanese vessel, one of the Chinese vessels responded saying the area is "inherent territory of China," according to Japanese media reports.

The reports said Chinese vessels visited the area 32 times this year.

The island dispute has also led to polarisation of national sentiments in both the countries affecting their flourishing trade ties.

Though, a November meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe raised hopes of easing of tensions between the two nations.

Japan has also proposed hotlines between the two militaries to avert maritime incidents.