BEIJING--Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka in 1972 confirmed that Japan and China agreed to shelve the dispute over the Senkaku Islands, a statement that contradicts the official Japanese government position, former political heavyweight Hiromu Nonaka said.
Nonaka, 87, a former chief Cabinet secretary and long-time member of the Liberal Democratic Party faction once led by Tanaka, said he himself heard Tanaka make the comment when he returned to Japan after normalizing relations with China in September 1972.
“As a witness who knows what happened at that time, I felt that it should be revealed,” Nonaka said at a June 3 news conference.
Japan’s official position is that no agreement had been reached between Japan and China to put aside the Senkaku issue. Tokyo contends there is no territorial dispute over the islands in the East China Sea.
Government officials reiterated that stance on June 4.
“There is no such fact when we look over our nation’s diplomatic records,” Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters.
At a separate news conference, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said: “There are no facts that point to an agreement for shelving the issue or maintaining the status quo. There is also no issue that has to be shelved.”
Beijing has long argued that an agreement to shelve the issue existed.
Nonaka revealed that he made the comment about Tanaka’s statement during a meeting on June 3 with Liu Yunshan, 65, the fifth-ranking Communist Party official and a Central Committee Politburo Standing Committee member.
According to Nonaka, Japan and China had agreed that the Senkaku issue should be shelved during efforts to improve ties without touching on such a sensitive subject.
Nonaka said that shortly after Tanaka normalized ties with China through negotiations with Premier Chou En-lai, a meeting of young LDP faction members was held in Hakone, Kanagawa Prefecture. There, Tanaka revealed that the agreement had been reached to shelve the Senkaku issue.
Liu did not directly respond to Nonaka’s comment about Tanaka’s words, only saying, “It will not benefit either nation unless this confrontation is resolved quickly.”
According to a report by the state-run Xinhua News Agency, Nonaka reflected on the fact that during the normalization of relations, the leaders of the two nations agreed to shelve the issue of the Diaoyu Islands, the name by which Beijing refers to the islands.
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