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China Assails Japan over Disputed Islands

September 25, 1996

UNITED NATIONS (AP) _ The Chinese foreign minister told his Japanese counterpart Tuesday that Japanese rightists had violated Chinese sovereignty by building a lighthouse on a tiny disputed island in the East China Sea.

``China considers this Chinese territory,″ Qian Qichen said in his first meeting with Japanese Foreign Minister Yukihiko Ikeda, according to Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Cui Tiankai.

``It is well known over the years, both historically and in the perspective of international law. It is indisputable.″

Japan disagreed. Ikeda ``reiterated (to Qian) the islands have been an integral part of Japanese territory,″ Japanese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hidehiko Hamada said.

The island is part of a chain that China calls the Diaoyu Islands and Japan calls the Senkaku Islands. The two countries and Taiwan all claim the uninhabited islands, which are surrounded by rich fish stocks, and possibly gas or oil deposits.

Chen and Ikeda are in New York for the U.N. General Assembly debate.

The dispute over the cluster of eight islands 250 miles between China and southern Japan highlights the strains of China emerging as a regional power, challenging Japan’s leadership in east Asia.

The dispute also has galvanized anti-Japanese sentiment throughout China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

China filed a protest with Japan this month, and protesters have burned Japanese flags in Taiwan. The Japanese coast guard has been kept busy shooing Taiwanese boats away from the islands.

Chinese spokesman Cui said China became alarmed recently because of the 16-foot, solar-powered lighthouse set up on one of the islands by Japanese ultranationalists in July.

Ikeda told Qian that the Japanese government had no involvement in the erection of the lighthouse. As for a petition by the rightists that the structure be formally recognized, ``we are very carefully examining this application,″ Hamada said.

The two ministers also discussed the U.S.-Japan security treaty, under which more than 50,000 American troops are stationed in Japan. Qian said China hoped there would not be an expansion of U.S.-Japan defense ties under the treaty.

Ikeda told him that the security arrangement does not target China, and is meant to benefit all Asia.

The island dispute comes at a delicate time for Japan, which has been lobbying for support in its bid to become a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council.

Japan is one of the leading contributors to the United Nations and sees joining the Council permanently as a reflection of its economic might and international influence.

China is one of the Security Council’s five permanent members.

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