China: Isles flare-up will be Japan's fault

Political advisory body says Beijing will hold Tokyo responsible for any armed conflict

China yesterday said it will hold Japan responsible for any flare-up over the disputed isles at the centre of the worst tensions between the two countries in 40 years.

"If Japan continues its mistaken ways over the Diaoyu isles, even sending planes and vessels from its Self Defence Force to disrupt the normal patrols of Chinese planes and ships, leading to an accidental armed conflict, it has to bear all consequences," said spokesman Lu Xinhua of China's top political advisory body.

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Mr Lu, of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), was answering a question from the state China Daily newspaper. Its reporter mentioned reports that the Chinese military is gearing up for war over the isles - a point that Mr Lu did not deny.

He claimed that the spat over the Diaoyu isles, called Senkaku by the Japanese, was created solely by Japan.

Mr Lu is a former deputy foreign minister. Thus, his response is seen as a possible reflection of Beijing's thinking on the dispute.

China is willing to get along amicably with Japan and other countries, but it will not back down over territory and sovereignty, said a stern Mr Lu.

He was all smiles though when asked about Hong Kong, where he was based for China's foreign affairs ministry from 2006 until now.

He urged residents there to be tolerant of the huge inflows of mainland visitors, blamed for such problems as rising prices and a scarcity of milk powder.

Last year, Hong Kong had almost 35 million mainland arrivals, or five times its population.

"What I want to stress here is that Hong Kong is China's territory," Mr Lu said.

"It was a British colony for more than 160 years, but now has returned to the motherland."

Hong Kong residents should understand that it was natural for mainland Chinese to want to see what the former British colony was like, he added.

He answered two questions about Hong Kong and six others on issues like Japan, Taiwan and the environment at a press conference a day before the start of China's annual political sessions.

More than 1,000 proposals and speeches have been submitted for this year's sessions, starting today. About 2,200 delegates are taking part.

Politburo Standing Committee member Yu Zhengsheng is slated to take over from outgoing CPPCC chairman Jia Qinglin, and former United Front Work Department head Du Qinglin and his successor Ling Jihua are also expected to hold leadership positions in the CPPCC.

hoaili@sph.com.sg