China demands no-entry zone around Senkakus to hold summit talks

As a condition for holding Sino-Chinese summit talks amid a dispute over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, China demanded after the Japanese government purchased the main part of the islands last September that Tokyo acknowledge a territorial dispute exists and agree on a 12-nautical-mile no-entry zone around them, Japan-China relations sources said Friday.

Japan has rejected such demands for "shelving" the dispute over ownership of the uninhabited Japanese-controlled islands, which are claimed by China and known there as Diaoyu, according to the sources. Japan maintains no dispute exists as the islands are legally and historically part of Japan.

No summit talks between Japan and China have been held for months, and talks have been suspended on an official agreement to build a "maritime liaison mechanism" to avoid an accidental clash.

A year ago, Japanese and Chinese defense officials had agreed to start such talks.

Amid rising tensions and fearing a possible contingency around the islands after the Japanese government purchased three of the five Senkaku islands from a private Japanese owner last September, the Japanese government by last December sent Vice Foreign Minister Chikao Kawai and Shinsuke Sugiyama, head of the Foreign Ministry's Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, separately to China.

They made diplomatic efforts in China to help the Japanese and Chinese leaders reach an agreement on the maritime liaison mechanism including a hot line, largely agreed in working-level talks in June last year.

Even after the change of government in Japan last December with the inauguration of the government headed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, China has continued to call for Japan to acknowledge the territorial dispute before holding summit talks.

Diplomatic talks by high-level officials of the two countries have also been suspended, tripartite summit talks involving Japan, China and South Korea expected to be held this spring were not held, and Japan-China diplomacy has remained deadlocked.