The Japanese government announced on Tuesday that 18 Japanese citizens have registered permanent addresses on the Diaoyu Islands, a group of islets in the East China Sea.
When asked to comment on the issue, Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan said China's stance on the Diaoyu Islands was "clear and consistent." He said this at a regular press conference yesterday afternoon.
"I reiterate that the Diaoyu and surrounding islands have been part of the Chinese territory since ancient times. China holds indisputable historical and legal evidence on the issue," he said.
He said any unilateral move by Japan in relation to the Diaoyu Islands is a serious infringement on China's territorial sovereignty and is "unlawful and invalid."
"China firmly opposes such moves and will never accept them," Kong said.
Kong also urged Japan "to face up honestly to its wartime atrocities."
He was responding to a comment made by the Japanese Ambassador to China Koreshige Anami who said that he believed China would probably not support Japan's bid for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) even if Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi stops his visits to Yasukuni Shrine, a shrine that honors Japan's war dead, including Class-A war criminals.
Kong said he hoped the Japanese leaders translate "their apology and remorse into practical actions to convince the Asian people and the world" of their sincerity.
Koizumi indicated on Monday that he will visit the shrine again this year, despite protests by other Asian countries. He has paid four visits to the shrine since he took office in 2001, the most recent visit being New Year's Day 2004.
Kong cited the shrine visits by Japanese leaders as one of the thorny issues in current China-Japan political relations, saying that it reflects what the Japanese government thinks about Japan's history of aggression against other Asian countries.
He said Japanese leaders have admitted that that part of Japan's history deeply hurt its Asian neighbors, including the Chinese people, and have expressed "deep remorse."
"In this case, China feels that the Japanese leaders should put their words into real actions and refrain from doing things that will hurt the Chinese and other Asians," Kong added.
"Only through this can we lay a favorable foundation for developing a healthy, stable, and friendly relationship between China and Japan," he said.
Moving on to the topic of putting weapons in space, Kong objected to this because "space should be utilized for peace."
The New York Times reported on Tuesday that the US Air Force is seeking President George W. Bush's approval of a national security directive that could move the United States closer to fielding both offensive and defensive space weapons.
While White House spokesman Scott McClellan said on Wednesday that the Bush administration is preparing to update its space policy to allow for protection of satellites from attack, it is not considering putting weapons into space.
"Space belongs to the commonwealth of all humanity. China has always held the opinion that space should be utilized for peace to benefit humankind," Kong said.
"China deems that active and precautionary measures -- carrying out negotiations or drawing up relevant international laws and decrees if necessary -- should be taken to ensure that space will be utilized for the purpose of peace," he said.
On the reform of the UNSC, Kong said the draft resolution of the "Group of Four" had revealed differences in position.
"It is necessary to conduct thorough and democratic discussions and to listen to the voices from member countries, especially the developing countries," he said.
A draft resolution circulated by India, Brazil, Germany and Japan -- known as the G-4 -- calling for an expansion of the UNSC from 15 to 25 members was distributed on Tuesday.
Turning to Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas' visit to China, which concluded on Thursday, Kong said China will offer Palestine assistance worth 50 million yuan (about US$6 million), in the forms of mobile housing, medical, recreational and sports-related aid.
During Abbas' three-day visit, China and Palestine signed five agreements on economy, trade and technology.
President Hu Jintao held talks with Abbas, and Premier Wen Jiabao and State Councilor Tang Jiaxuan met with him on separate occasions, said Kong. "The two sides reached a consensus on how to further promote friendly cooperation, and jointly push forward the Middle East peace process."
On the subject of state visits, Kong announced that King Albert II of Belgium will visit from June 4 to 11, Uzbekistan President Islam Karimov from May 25 to 27, and Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader from May 26 to 30.
(China Daily, Xinhua News Agency, CRI.com May 20, 2005)