The government instructed its ambassador to China to "accurately" convey to Beijing its stance that the disputed Senkaku Islands are Japanese territory and to protest repeated incursions by Chinese vessels into Japanese waters.
The move was intended to send a strong message to China and rein in Ambassador Uichiro Niwa for making comments that do not always reflect the government's position.
Foreign Minister Koichiro Genba met with Niwa in Tokyo on July 15 to discuss the government's response to incursions by Chinese vessels into waters around the islands last week and other pending issues.
Niwa, who is known for his pro-China stance, had been recalled to Tokyo earlier that day at Genba's instructions in what a senior ministry official described as a "diplomatic gesture."
Genba told Niwa it was his job to accurately relay the Japanese government's position to the Chinese side, sources said.
Genba told reporters afterward that he summoned Niwa home for a briefing on current Chinese thinking toward Japan in light of the latest developments between the two nations.
The disputed islands in the East China Sea come under the jurisdiction of Ishigaki, a city in Okinawa Prefecture.
The government has been leasing three of the uninhabited islets since 2002.
Genba recalled Niwa to make clear to Beijing that the Noda administration will stand firm on its policy to purchase three of the islands, which are currently privately owned, and put them under state ownership despite fierce opposition from China, according to the sources.
The government announced the policy after Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara, a staunch critic of China, announced in April that his metropolitan government planned to purchase the islands.
His provocative statement sent bilateral relations into a tailspin.
Niwa was reprimanded by Genba in June for saying in an interview with Britain's Financial Times that the metropolitan government's plan to purchase the islets will result in a crisis in bilateral ties.
Japan's stand is that there is no territorial dispute with China because the Senkaku Islands are part of Japanese territory. Therefore, the government says the question of purchasing the islets cannot be a diplomatic issue.
Genba on July 15 again reminded Niwa to toe the Japanese government's line and not speak out of turn.
Despite opposition parties calls for Niwa's resignation, Genba said he had no plans to dismiss him.
- « Prev
- Next »