Beijing: Likening the situation in its troubled neighbourhood to a "military chess game", China on Saturday said it will firmly defend its territorial sovereignty and rights but at the same time try to resolve differences through talks upholding regional peace and stability.
Addressing his annual press conference here today coinciding with the new leadership change, China`s Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi acknowledged that in the light of territorial disputes "the complexities in China`s neighbouring environment have increased".
Yang who held the post for six years under the outgoing Hu Jintao administration, is tipped to get elevated as State Counsellor to succeed retiring top envoy Dai Binguo to represent China in future Sino-India border talks and he said despite the disputes, relations with neighbours have improved.
He began his answer to the question on disputes with neighbours speaking about his fascination of military chess games for which one needs to have "whole picture in mind".
"With respect to territorial disputes between China and some of its neighbours, China will firmly defend its territorial sovereignty and legitimate rights and interests," he said.
At the same time he said Chinese sincerely wish to properly handle and resolve the differences through negotiations and consultations in order to uphold peace and stability in the region.
There was no direct reference to India and the Sino-Indian border dispute or problems over the South China Sea dispute with several East Asian countries in Yang`s press meet but he had very strong words for Japan to settle the raging dispute over the islands in East China sea.
"The current situation has been caused by the Japanese side single-handedly and the root cause lies in "Japan`s illegal seizure and occupation of China`s territory," he said.
"The firm measures taken by the Chinese side have shown the will and resolve of the Chinese government and the Chinese people to defend our territorial sovereignty," he said.
He asked Japan to take real steps to correct its mistakes over the issue, and work with China to prevent tensions from "getting out of control."
Yang said despite the problems, China`s ties with neighbours improved so much so that China`s trade with them reached USD 1.2 trillion surpassing Beijing`s combined trade with its top two trade partners EU and US.
In the face of international financial crisis, China`s contribution to Asia`s economic growth has exceeded 50 per cent, he said.
About 35 million travel visits have taken place between China and neighbours and 1.70 lakh Asian students are studying in China. Over 100 visits of leaders and officials have taken place between China and its neighbours and they are set to double in future, he said.
"As Chinese saying goes, a good friend and good neighbour is invaluable. China will continue to follow the policy of building good neighbourly relationships and partnership in the neighbourhood and continue to foster amicable ties for mutual benefits with our neighbours," he said.