China's Wen Threatens To Step Up Japan Row

In the first comments by a senior Chinese leader on the issue, he told a meeting of overseas Chinese and Chinese Americans in New York on Tuesday that the skipper must be set free unconditionally.

“Otherwise, China will take further actions,” state news agency Xinhua quoted Wen as saying,

The report did not elaborate. But Beijing has already suspended high-level contacts with Japan over the issue and postponed talks about increasing flights between the two sides.

“The Japanese side bears full responsibility for the current situation, and it shall bear all the consequences that arise,” Wen added.

Xinhua said Wen demanded Japan “swiftly correct its mistakes to bring bilateral ties back on track, a move that will be not only conducive to bilateral ties, but also to world peace, cooperation and development.”

But he noted that Sino-Japanese relations had “enjoyed improvements and developments with the efforts of both sides for many years.”

China has already announced that Wen would snub Japanese Prime Minister Kan, who is also in New York attending the same U.N. development summit.

Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary, Yoshito Sengoku, asked to comment on Wen’s remarks, said: “It would be good to have high-level talks as soon as possible, on issues including broad, strategic matters.”

China has already said Wen would snub Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan, also in New York for a U.N. summit.

Kan told reporters he had no plans to ask for a meeting there. “I’d like people in each position to act calmly.”

The row with China is turning into a test of the diplomatic skills of Kan, fresh from fending off a party leadership challenge and struggling with a raft of problems from a strong yen and weak economy to a divided parliament.

NEITHER WANTS TO RISK TRADE

Analysts say neither country wants to risk their growing trade flows with outright confrontation. But the boat case has re-opened disputes put on hold as the two governments sought to end decades of quarrels.

The two are also at odds over China’s exploration for natural gas in the East China Sea. And Beijing has territorial disputes with southeast Asian nations in the South China Sea.

“This dispute is a conflict over energy resources. The islands themselves are actually not so important, but the heart of the issue lies in the natural resources in the nearby waters,” said Shigeki Sakamoto, professor of law at Kobe University.

A group of activists set out from Hong Kong for the islands on Wednesday, ostensibly to assert China’s fishing rights around the East China Sea islands.

China has been Japan’s biggest trading partner since 2009 and bilateral trade reached 12.6 trillion yen (94 billion pounds) in the January-June period, a jump of 34.5 percent over the same time last year, according to Japanese statistics.

Japanese authorities have accused the Chinese captain of colliding with a patrol ship and obstructing officers near the disputed, uninhabited islets in the East China Sea, called Diaoyu in China and Senkaku in Japan.

The two countries are also at odds over China’s exploration for natural gas in the East China Sea. Beijing is also involved in territorial disputes with Southeast Asian nations in the South China Sea.

Japanese prosecutors have until September 29 to decide whether to bring charges against the captain. Reuters