Tokyo asserts right to claim disputed islands in textbooks

Tokyo asserts right to claim disputed islands in textbooks

TAIPEI, Taiwan - The Japanese government's chief spokesman said yesterday that "there should be no problem" for the nation in describing the Diaoyutai Islands as its territory in middle school textbooks.

In a joint interview with publishers and senior editors of Asian newspapers in Tokyo yesterday, Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told Tom Hsieh , executive editor of The China Post, that the islands, known as the Senkaku Islands in Japan, "are the inherent territories of our country from a historical perspective as well as from international law.

Therefore, I consider there should be no problem with respect to the related description that you find in textbooks."

Sovereignty over the Diaoyutai Islands is claimed by Taiwan, Japan and mainland China. The islands in the East China Sea, currently under Japan's administration, have long been a security and diplomatic flashpoint in the region.

"Our country cannot accept the unfounded and unique assertion by China as such, and we will approach this question in a resolute way and a dispassionate way when China tries to change the status quo in a unilateral way," Suga said.

The official pointed out, however, that Japan and China share large responsibility for the "peace and prosperity" of the region and "must develop the amicable relationship in a stable way."

Suga did not specifically discuss Taiwan's sovereignty claim over the islands but asserted that "Taiwan is an old friend of Japan."

"With Taiwan we share what is called universal values, such as freedom, democracy, basic human rights and rule of law. We also have close economic ties as well as personnel exchanges," he said.

In response to Suga's comment, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Anna Kao said that Taiwan "sternly protests" Japan's move to include the islands in its textbooks.

Kao reiterated that the Diaoyutais are part of the R.O.C.'s territory, a fact that will not be changed by any unilateral move by Japan, adding that the R.O.C. will adhere to the principles of safeguarding R.O.C. sovereignty, shelving differences and seeking co-operation on resource development in the region through dialogue.

In response to a question by Zhou Li, publisher and editor-in-chief of China Daily Asia Pacific, Suga pointed out that Sino-Japanese relations had seen improvement recently, citing two summit meetings between leaders from the two nations since last November.

"China is the second largest, Japan is the third largest (economy) in the world," he said. "Therefore, we are partners (with a great) responsibility for the peace and prosperity of the region."

When asked to comment on Japan's strained relationship with South Korea, Suga said: "I don't think the peoples of both nations feel that the relationship of tension continues between the two countries. People don't feel that way."

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