Japan's Prime Minster Shinzo Abe ( Photo: Reuters)
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday ruled out concessions on sovereignty in a tense territorial row with China but appealed to Beijing to discuss their differences.
Abe rejected a recent appeal from China which said it was ready for dialogue if Japan acknowledged that a set of islands – known as the Senkakus in Japanese and the Diaoyus in Chinese – were disputed.
"The Senkakus are an inherent part of the territory of Japan in light of historical facts and based upon international law and the islands are under the valid control of Japan," Abe told reporters in New York after taking part in the UN General Assembly.
"To our regret, incursions by Chinese government vessels in our territorial waters are continuing. But Japan will not make a concession on our territorial sovereignty," he said.
Abe, however, said that Japan sought calm and "we do not intend to escalate this issue any further."
He called for cooperation with China, saying that the relationship between Asia's two largest economies was critical for the region's security.
"The door to dialogue is always open and I really hope that the Chinese side would take a similar attitude and mindset," Abe said.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, speaking ahead of the UN General Assembly, said he supported talks but that Japan first had to declare that the islands are disputed.
"The whole world knows that there is a dispute," Wang said at the Brookings Institution in Washington last week.
Abe, a conservative who is the politically strongest Japanese leader in nearly a decade, has stepped up defense spending and advocated a firm line with China.
Japanese officials have voiced alarm at the rising number of Chinese ships that have approached the waters, charging that Beijing is using intimidation to challenge Tokyo.
Both countries claim the islands, whose status is linked in the view of many Chinese to Japan's past expansionism in Asia.
Japan says that China only took an interest in the islands when potentially lucrative energy reserves were discovered nearby several decades ago.