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Remarks by Assistant Foreign Minister Le Yucheng at the Symposium on the Issue of Diaoyu Dao
2012/09/14

Diaoyutai State Guesthouse, 14 September 2012

Experts and scholars,

Friends from across the society,

Good afternoon. I wish to thank the hosts, China Institute of International Studies, Beijing Youth Federation and Xinhuanet, for inviting me to this symposium. We are all well aware of the background of this meeting. Four days ago, regardless of the repeated serious representations made by the Chinese side, the Japanese government announced the "purchase" of Diaoyu Dao and its affiliated Nanxiao Dao and Beixiao Dao and the "nationalization" of these islands. What the Japanese government did constitutes a gross violation of China's territorial sovereignty. The Chinese government and people have expressed firm opposition to and strong indignation over this action. I would like to use the opportunity today to share with you a few personal observations on this matter.

Japan has been creating trouble and making waves on the issue of Diaoyu Dao for quite some time. This year alone, the Japanese government has named some of Diaoyu Dao's affiliated islands; some members of the Japanese Diet went "angling" in the waters of Diaoyu Dao; right-wingers landed on the island and staged the farce of a so-called "ceremony to mourn the victims of war". Finally, the Japanese government has come out from behind the curtain to execute the so-called plan to "purchase" the islands. This course of actions, which are closely sequenced, fully demonstrates that Japan's "purchase of the islands" is by no means an isolated event. It is a result of the changing political climate in Japan. There is a sinister tendency inside Japan that is taking Japan and China-Japan relations down an extremely dangerous road.

Japan's economy has been in the doldrums over the past two decades. Hit hard by the international financial crisis and last year's devastating earthquake on March 11, Japan can hardly afford to be optimistic about its economic outlook. Instability and uncertainties abound in the Japanese politics as a result of ferocious political infighting and frequent change of government. The Japanese right-wing forces, represented by Shintaro Ishihara, Governor of Tokyo, have been using these domestic problems to incite tensions and make trouble, and gradually gained momentum. Some Japanese politicians would very often come out to publicly deny the history of Japanese aggression, the Nanjing Massacre, comfort women and other wartime atrocities. This shows the right-wing forces have become so energetic and assertive that they are already affecting the climate and future course of Japanese politics. Japan's neighbors and the international community have already warned that Japan is moving towards "ultra-rightism". Rather than keeping a lid on the trouble-making right-wing forces, the Japanese authorities have chosen to appease and give a free rein to them. The Japanese authorities have even used these forces as a shield to make provocations on neighboring countries in order to shift the attention of its domestic public to somewhere else. This has strained Japan's ties with almost all of its neighbors. At the same time, the Japanese government is quite active in trying to revise its peace constitution and the Three Non-Nuclear Principles in an attempt to get out of the bounds of the post-war order. These are highly dangerous developments that should put us on the alert.

The sinister tendency in Japan is particularly obvious in the Japanese approach to China-Japan relations. There are always some people in Japan who can hardly come to terms with the fact that China is growing stronger, and who can hardly bear to see the Chinese people becoming better off. There are always those in Japan who would go out of their way to make trouble for China and to disrupt China-Japan relations. Hence they have seized on the issue of Diaoyu Dao as an important lever to undermine China-Japan relations.

It is therefore abundantly clear that the tensions surrounding Diaoyu Dao today are stirred up single-handedly by the Japanese side with the purpose of rewriting Japan's inglorious history of illegally stealing Chinese territory and denying the historical fact that Diaoyu Dao belongs to China. Such attempts, which are null and void, are made to no avail. A legal maxim known to all says "Nemo dat quod non habet" or "No one gives what he doesn't have." What Japan is doing is like someone grabbing a bicycle from his neighbor. No matter who rides that bicycle, he or his son, it does not change the fact that the bicycle does not belong to him. Whatever "deals" Japan makes on Diaoyu Dao and its affiliated islands, whatever Japan does with the islands, it will not, not even in the slightest terms, change the historical fact that Japan invaded and occupied Chinese territory, and it will not change at all China's territorial sovereignty over Diaoyu Dao and its affiliated islands.

Japan has dished out numerous fallacies on the so-called "purchase of the islands" in an attempt to cover up the truth and mislead public opinion. We have with us today quite many experts on Japanese and international issues. We should explain in greater depth the real ownership and history of Diaoyu Dao and let the world see the truth on the issue of Diaoyu Dao. Japan's fallacies can be summed up as the following four points.

First, Japan claims that Diaoyu Dao is "terra nullius". This is completely groundless. Abundant historical documents show that Diaoyu Dao and other islands were first discovered, named and exploited by the Chinese people. Before the 15th century, some businessmen and fishermen in China's Southeast coast used Diaoyu Dao as a mark for navigation and the Chinese have engaged in production activities on these islands and in their adjacent waters. Since the early years of the Ming Dynasty, Diaoyu Dao and other islands have been put under the jurisdiction of China's coastal defense. This fact was recognized by Japan in explicit terms in the Japanese historical records till the late 19th century. The Diaoyu Dao Islands have, therefore, been part of China since ancient times. This is not a baseless or unfounded statement. Rather it has every piece of irrefutable evidence.

Second, Japan claims that there is no territorial dispute between China and Japan. In fact, Japan seized on the first Sino-Japanese war (1894-1895) and illegally occupied Diaoyu Dao. After the Second World War, Diaoyu Dao and its affiliated islands were returned to China according to the Cairo Declaration and the Potsdam Proclamation. In 1951, the Treaty of Peace with Japan (commonly known as the Treaty of San Francisco, a treaty partial in nature) was signed between Japan, the United States and some other countries, placing the Ryukyu Islands (known as Okinawa today) under the administration of the United States. In 1953, the Civil Administration of the Ryukyu Islands under the control of the United States arbitrarily expanded its jurisdiction to include Diaoyu Dao and its affiliated islands, which are in fact Chinese territories. In 1971, Japan and the United States signed the Okinawa Reversion Agreement, which arbitrarily included Diaoyu Dao and other islands in the territories and territorial waters to be reverted to Japan. The Chinese government has, from the very beginning, firmly opposed and never recognized such backroom deals between Japan and the United States concerning Chinese territories. Facts are facts, and history is not to be reversed. Japan's claim that there is no dispute between China and Japan over Diaoyu Dao is an outright denial of the outcomes of the victory of the World Anti-Fascist War and constitutes a direct challenge to the post-war international order.

Third, Japan claims that there is no common understanding between China and Japan on shelving territorial disputes. This is an out and out lie. During the negotiations on the normalization of China-Japan relations in 1972 and on the signing of the Sino-Japanese Treaty of Peace and Friendship in 1978, the then leaders of the two countries, bearing in mind the larger interest of China-Japan relations, reached important common understanding on "leaving the issue of Diaoyu Dao to be resolved later". This opened the door to normalization of China-Japan relations and was followed by tremendous progress in China-Japan relations and stability and tranquility in East Asia in the following 40 years. But now the Japanese authorities deny the previous common understanding reached between the two countries. This shows a lack of the very basic integrity of a state and seriously shakes the foundation of political mutual trust between China and Japan.

Fourth, Japan claims that the government is cornered into buying the islands. It says that the government buys the islands in order to avoid damage to China-Japan relations that may be caused by Shintaro Ishihara's purchase of the islands and to keep the situation in Diaoyu Dao "peaceful and stable". This is nothing but a pretext. The fact and the outcome turn out to be that Ishihara first set the stage and put on the farce of "islands purchase", then the Japanese government, with thinly veiled pretexts, echoed and joined him in this farce, one coaxing and the other coercing. Their aim is to strengthen Japan's "legal status" on the issue of Diaoyu Dao. Should there be any truth in the Japanese government's explanations, we cannot but ask: who has the final say in Japan? Who should we be dealing with? If the Japanese side keeps making trouble this way, how can one expect a "stable" situation in Diaoyu Dao?

Since Japan started to "buy the islands" in April, the leaders of the Party Central Committee and the State Council have attached great importance to the development of the situation. They made quite a number of important instructions and engaged with the Japanese side through in-depth talks. President Hu Jintao, Premier Wen Jiabao and other Chinese leaders made clear to the Japanese side, on various occasions, China's firm position and urged the Japanese side to fully recognize the gravity of the situation and handle the Diaoyu Dao issue properly and prudently. China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Embassy in Japan made repeated and frequent representations to the Japanese side, urging the Japanese side to immediately stop all unilateral actions and return to the right track of managing disagreements through dialogue and consultation.

Regardless of repeated strong representations of the Chinese side, the Japanese government announced on 10 September the "islands purchase", to which the Chinese side made immediate and strong responses. China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a solemn statement right after the announcement. Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi immediately summoned the Japanese ambassador to China and lodged a strong protest to the Japanese side. The Chinese ambassador to Japan also made solemn representation to the Japanese side in Tokyo. In the past few days, the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National People's Congress, the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, the All-China Students Federation, the All-China Youth Federation and other institutions all issued statements and the spokesperson of the Ministry of National Defense made remarks, condemning the despicable act of the Japanese government.

At the same time, the Chinese government has taken a series of measures to state and strengthen the position of China on its sovereignty over Diaoyu Dao. We have established and announced base points and baselines of the territorial sea of Diaoyu Dao and its affiliated islands in line with the Law of the People's Republic of China on the Territorial Sea and the Contiguous Zone. This is consistent with relevant provisions of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Early this morning, Ambassador Li Baodong, China's Permanent Representative to the United Nations, deposited the coordinates table and chart of the base points and baselines of the territorial sea of China's Diaoyu Dao and its affiliated islands with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Announcing base points and baselines of the territorial sea is the basis of establishing waters under national jurisdiction, on the basis of which the territorial sea, exclusive economic zone and continental shelf can be established according to the provisions of UNCLOS. This has given us a clearer legal basis to safeguard China's sovereignty over Diaoyu Dao and China's sovereign rights and jurisdiction in the waters around the islands. Today, convoys of China's maritime surveillance vessels have arrived in the waters of Diaoyu Dao on a law enforcement patrol mission to uphold China's rights. This is another strong measure that we take to safeguard our territorial sovereignty.

In addition, we have announced that we will carry out routine surveillance and survey on Diaoyu Dao and its affiliated islands, and China Central Television (CCTV) has started to broadcast meteorological forecast and maritime environment forecast of Diaoyu Dao and its surrounding waters. All these measures have reaffirmed and strengthened China's sovereign rights.

The major countermeasures adopted over the past few days have upheld China's sovereignty over Diaoyu Dao and dealt a blow to Japan's blatant attempt to violate China's territorial sovereignty. Going forward, we will continue to react with robust countermeasures in light of the developments of the situation to safeguard China's territorial sovereignty.

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

I highly appreciate the theme of today's symposium: "Uniting and working hard to safeguard sovereignty". In face of the latest developments of the situation surrounding Diaoyu Dao, we should enhance confidence. We should note that our motherland is growing more prosperous and stronger by the day. China's international status is rising fast. Gone are the days when the Chinese nation was bullied by others at will. We should maintain unity. China had untold sufferings from the Japanese aggression in modern history, because our country was then as disunited as a heap of loose sand. But there is a world of difference in today's China. As long as we pull together and act in unison, nobody can ride roughshod over China and any external provocation is doomed to failure. We should work hard. We must run our own affairs well and make our country even stronger. This is the solid foundation for us to safeguard state sovereignty and foil any external aggression.

Lastly, I would once again seriously remind the Japanese side that the responsibility for the current state of China-Japan relations rests fully with the Japanese side and the ball is in its court as to where our relations are heading in the future. Over the past 40 years since the normalization of China-Japan relations, China has always upheld the larger interest of bilateral ties and appropriately addressed problems and differences between the two countries. But China-Japan relations cannot grow only on Chinese effort alone. Japan must immediately stop all actions that harm China's territorial sovereignty and return as quickly as possible to the common understanding reached between the two sides and to the track of settling disputes through negotiations. China will in no way recognize Japan's illegal occupation of and the so-called "actual control" over Diaoyu Dao. Nor will we tolerate any unilateral Japanese action on Diaoyu Dao. The will and resolve of the Chinese government and people to uphold China's territorial sovereignty are firm and will not be shaken by any force.

Thank you.

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