Noda seeks closer ties with India amid isles row with China

November 04, 2012


Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda will seek a closer security alliance between Japan and India as part of efforts to counter China’s sovereignty claims to the Senkaku Islands, which would include additional naval exercises between the two countries.

But he will maintain a calm stance over the dispute at upcoming international conferences to underscore differences from an increasingly vociferous and belligerent China.

Noda and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will agree to create a bilateral forum of senior officials to discuss security in the South China Sea when they meet on Nov. 16, sources said.

The Japanese prime minister will also propose that the Maritime Self-Defense Force and the Indian Navy hold joint exercises in the Indian Ocean in addition to existing drills around Japan, the sources said.

The initiatives are part of Japan’s strategy to forge closer relations with countries wary of China’s maritime expansion, the sources said.

Noda will attend a summit of the Asia-Europe Meeting in Laos on Nov. 5-6 and summits related to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Cambodia from Nov. 18.

He plans to maintain a calm stance on the Senkaku Islands at these meetings.

“We will respond in a level-headed and rational manner,” Noda told The Asahi Shimbun and other media organizations on Nov. 2. “If we attach too much importance on the issue when leaders of other countries gather, it will not benefit us.”

Officials said the Senkakus issue has complicated historical backgrounds, and it will not be easy to win support from other nations simply by emphasizing Japan’s position.

Japan placed three of the Senkaku Islands, a group of five uninhabited islands in the East China Sea, under state ownership in September.

In protest, China, which claims the islands as Diaoyu, initially sent government ships into Japanese territorial waters near the islands about once a week.

The number of intrusions has increased since late October, and some ships carry electronic signs claiming they are operating in Chinese waters.

A senior Foreign Ministry official said such acts “clearly infringe on Japan’s sovereignty.”

Ministry officials believe that Beijing is trying to force Tokyo to acknowledge that a territorial dispute exists between the two countries and agree to jointly control the islands.

In addition, Chinese government ships have entered the contiguous zone outside the territorial waters almost daily, except for periods with approaching typhoons.

China has sent mainly Haijian marine surveillance ships from the State Oceanic Administration under the Ministry of Land and Resources and Yuzheng fishery monitoring ships from the Agriculture Ministry’s Fisheries Bureau to the area.

In a meeting with Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg on Nov. 1, Noda said it is important to resolve the Senkakus issue based on international law and the rule of law.

Officials said Noda’s reference to international law is designed as a warning to China.

Yutaka Yokoi, a Foreign Ministry spokesman, said it is “not appropriate” for China to claim sovereignty by sending government ships into Japanese territorial waters, which he described as a forceful means.

Tokyo hopes to differentiate itself from Beijing by behaving calmly.

“We will fulfill our responsibility in building an international order,” Foreign Minister Koichiro Genba said.

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