Japan PM contender brushes aside China`s claim to islets

Ichiro Ozawa, one of two men vying for the role of Japanese prime minister in a party leadership race, said today Tokyo must bluntly fend off Beijing`s claim to disputed islets in the East China Sea.

Last Updated: Sep 05, 2010, 16:30 PM IST

Tokyo: Ichiro Ozawa, one of two men vying
for the role of Japanese prime minister in a party leadership
race, said today Tokyo must bluntly fend off Beijing`s claim
to disputed islets in the East China Sea.

Ozawa is facing off against incumbent Prime Minister
Naoto Kan in a September 14 election for leadership of the
ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ). If Ozawa wins, he will
become the nation`s prime minister.

During a television debate with Kan, Ozawa said the
islets of Senkaku, known as Diaoyu in China, "have never been
recognised as Chinese territory in history."

"We have to get this straight," Ozawa told the debate,
aired by public broadcaster NHK. "There are various concerns
over China, but it is important to speak to each other
plainly."

The uninhabited islets lie between Japan and Taiwan,
which both claim them, as does China. The long-standing
territorial spat has cast a shadow over ties between the two
Asian powers.

Ozawa also said Japan should take "decisive measures"
against any military threat from China, while calling on
Beijing to take political responsibility as a major power in
the international community.

In April, Japan voiced concerns about a flotilla of
Chinese ships, including two submarines, which conducted
drills in the East China Sea near Okinawa and then sailed on
to the Pacific Ocean.

Tokyo also lodged a protest with Beijing after Chinese
naval helicopters flew close to Japanese naval destroyers in
April also near Okinawa.
Beijing rebuffed the protests.

During the debate, Kan also said that while promoting
its economic ties with China, Japan is ready to deliver a
message of concern to China over its growing military
build-up.

"We need to carefully watch China`s growing military
strength," Kan said.

"If necessary, we have to let them know of our
concerns."

Kan and Ozawa are locked in a neck-and-neck race in
which DPJ representatives in national and local assemblies as
well as party members will vote.

The Nikkei business daily said Ozawa was in front
among party lawmakers, while the Sankei Shimbun said Kan
maintained the lead overall, with around 15 per cent of DPJ
lawmakers yet to make up their minds.

PTI