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Japan's Motegi refutes China foreign minister's remarks on Senkakus

China' Foreign Minister Wang Yi, left, and his Japanese counterpart Toshimitsu Motegi conclude a press briefing in Tokyo on Nov. 24, 2020. (Issei Kato/Pool Photo via AP)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi rejected as "totally unacceptable" Friday his Chinese counterpart's recent public remarks claiming Beijing's sovereignty over the Tokyo-administered Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.

    "The Senkaku Islands are without doubt our country's inherent territory historically and under international law," Motegi told a parliamentary committee, following criticism by some ruling party lawmakers that he took no action when Wang Yi, during a visit to Tokyo, made the territorial claims at a joint press event on Tuesday.

    He said that in the talks with Wang, he "strongly urged" China not to take actions such as sending official ships into Japanese territorial waters or having them come into contact with Japanese vessels in the area.

    Motegi said he also "again made the request" after the joint press event, during which the two ministers made statements but did not take questions.

    A Foreign Ministry official said Thursday that protocol rules prevented Motegi from commenting on Wang's assertion at the event, known as a joint press availability, as each minister had only one chance to speak and Motegi had spoken first.

    Motegi made the comments condemning Wang's remarks in the Diet in response to ruling Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker Hiroshi Yamada, who asked why the minister did not immediately respond to the remarks in the press event.

    "The Japanese public wanted Foreign Minister Motegi to sharply oppose (Wang's remarks)" on the spot, Yamada said.

    Some lawmakers of the LDP's Foreign Affairs Division criticized Motegi on Thursday for giving the impression that Japan tacitly approves of China's stance by not reacting during the press event.

    With Wang at his side, Motegi told reporters at the event that he conveyed to the Chinese foreign minister Japan's stance over the Senkaku Islands and "strongly urged positive action" by the Chinese side.

    When it was his turn to speak, Wang said China will "safeguard China's sovereignty" over the islands and justified Beijing's sending of official vessels to the area, saying, "unknown Japanese fishing vessels entered the waters of the Diaoyu Islands."

    At Tuesday's talks, Motegi and Wang remained apart over Tokyo's concerns about Beijing's attempts to undermine Japan's control of the Senkaku Islands, which China calls Diaoyu.

    Wang, also a state councilor, was on a two-day visit to Japan through Wednesday during which he also met Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.

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