China Cancels Invite to Japanese Lawmakers, Retaliating for Islands Move

Posted September 12th, 2012 at 8:55 pm (UTC-5)
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Japanese media say the Chinese Communist Party has canceled an invitation for a Japanese delegation to visit Beijing, in the first sign of Chinese diplomatic retaliation for a Japanese move to nationalize disputed islands in the East China Sea.

The Japanese news reports quote sources as saying Chinese authorities informed the Japanese delegation of the cancelation Wednesday. The Chinese Communist Party had invited the group of current and former Japanese lawmakers to visit Beijing for several days beginning September 26, to celebrate the 40th anniversary of China-Japan diplomatic relations.

Japanese media say Chinese authorities may postpone an anniversary ceremony planned for September 27 because of Chinese anger about the Japanese government's decision to buy three of the disputed islands from a Japanese family.

Japanese officials announced the $26 million deal on Monday, saying the move was meant to ensure that no one triggers a confrontation with China by developing the uninhabited islands, known as Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in Chinese. Tokyo's ultranationalist governor tried to buy the islands earlier this year to enable them to be developed.

Both nations claim the archipelago, whose waters contain rich fishing grounds and potential oil reserves.

China has denounced the Japanese government purchase as a violation of Chinese sovereignty, saying it does not recognize any Japanese ownership of the islands. At a meeting in Beijing Wednesday, Chinese foreign ministry representative Lou Zhaohui told visiting Japanese official Shinsuke Sugiyama that Tokyo should revoke the purchase “immediately.”

In Tokyo, Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Genba rejected the Chinese demand, saying there is “no way” Japan will reconsider a transaction involving what it considers to be sovereign Japanese territory.

Despite the strong rhetoric, neither China nor Japan appeared ready to escalate the dispute to a level that could threaten their deep economic ties. Officials said Lou and Sugiyama agreed on a need to continue dialogue to resolve the issue.