Chinese ships in disputed islands; Japan minerals may exhaust

Beijing defended the dispatch of ships to disputed islands in China Sea to protect Chinese fishermen.

Zeenews Bureau

Tokyo: Beijing on Thursday defended the
dispatch of ships to the disputed islands in East China Sea to
protect Chinese fishermen, saying it was in accordance with
the country`s law.

"We have always been in accordance with Chinese law
and regulations, dispatching fisheries law enforcement vessels
to protect the Chinese fishermen," said Ma Zhaoxu, the Chinese
Foreign Ministry spokesman.

The two nations have been involved in a bitter
diplomatic row since the collision between a Chinese trawler
and two Japanese patrol boats on September 7 near the islands
in the East China Sea called Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in

The Foreign Ministry confirmed reports from Japan that
it has sent fisheries law enforcement vessels to the disputed

Responding to a question concerning Chinese fisheries
patrol boats` missions in waters near the Islands in East
China Sea, Ma said: "The waters off the Diaoyu Islands are
traditional Chinese fishing grounds".

Chinese law enforcement vessels were deployed to
patrol off the Diaoyu Islands after a collision between a
Chinese trawler and two Japanese patrol boats last month.
Japanese authorities seized the Chinese trawler and
the crew, and detained the trawler`s captain. He was
subsequently released after China halted bilateral exchanges.

Tensions subsided after Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and
Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan met during an Asia-Europe
summit. However, soon violent rallies in several Chinese
cities protesting Tokyo`s claim to the islands have threatened
to reopen hostilities.

Japan minerals to exhaust by March

Japan`s stockpile of rare earth
minerals could dry up by March or April without fresh imports
from China, which has stopped shipping them, a senior Japanese
government official said today.

Yoshikatsu Nakayama, vice-minister of the economy,
trade and industry, said China was yet to normalise the
Japan-bound exports of the minerals used in high-tech
products, ranging from televisions to hybrid cars.

"With recycling, imports from sources other than
China, and cooperation among (Japanese) companies, it (the
existing stock) seems to last until March or April," he told
Japanese reporters, according to Jiji Press.

China has not officially declared an export ban, but
all of 31 Japanese companies handling rare earth minerals had
reported disruption or stopping of shipments.

China, which controls more than 95 percent of the
global market, stopped shipment last month.
The Chinese government has denied officially ordering
an export ban.

But Chinese authorities have required additional
documents and fresh administrative headaches to Chinese
businesses, discouraging them from exporting rare earths to
Japan, the Asahi Shimbun newspaper said.

Japanese firms have asked for shipment of the products
via a third country, such as South Korea, but Chinese firms
have refused, fearing that authorities may find out, the Asahi
Only two Japanese firms have received rare earth
shipments from China since late September, the Asahi said.

Since then, China has also reportedly stopped rare
earth shipments to the United States in response to US
investigation into alleged Chinese subsidies into its green
technology sector.

China today denied making any fresh cuts in rare
earths export quotas, but insisted it reserved the right to
restrict shipments.

Fresh row over Japanese ‘insult’

A senior Chinese official lashed out at Japan`s Foreign Minister for a reported insult Thursday, saying a planned meeting between leaders of the two countries intended to smooth over recent tensions was uncertain.
Japan was trying to set up formal talks between their leaders on the sidelines of a regional summit next week.
But Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs Hu Zhengyue called that meeting into question Thursday, saying any talks would require "appropriate conditions and atmosphere" and that Tokyo didn`t seem ready.
Japanese media have quoted Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara as saying that Beijing`s reaction to the territorial dispute was "hysterical." Hu characterized the comments as "provocative" and an attack on China.

(With agencies inputs)