10:09 GMT +312 December 2019
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    A group of disputed islands, Uotsuri island (top), Minamikojima (bottom) and Kitakojima, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China is seen in the East China Sea (File)

    Pandora's Box: Japan Lawmaker Discusses Possible De-Escalation in Island Dispute

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    During the meeting with Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono on Sunday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi called on Tokyo to join efforts with Beijing to improve bilateral relations, amid a recent spike in the territorial rift over disputed islands. Okinawa Prefectural Deputy Danny Tamaki spoke to Sputnik in an interview.

    According to Danny Tamaki, Japan and China need to return to the joint development of the waters of the Senkaku Islands, [Diaoyudao Islands] which existed before the acquisition of territories by the Japanese government in 2012. 

    "I think it is necessary to freeze the conflict situation and return to joint development of the Senkaku water area, creating such a mechanism of constant interaction that will help prevent all conflicts in this area,” Tamaki told Sputnik.

    "Having nationalized the Senkaku Islands, Japan opened a Pandora's box, releasing all the frozen conflicts," he added.

    In his opinion, this “Pandora's box” must be closed before the situation approaches a stage when it can no longer be settled.

    However, under the current tense situation in the East China Sea, a peaceful settlement seems remote, as the coastguard of the PRC regularly patrol the waters of the islands and do not pose a direct threat to the inhabitants of Okinawa Prefecture, the Japanese government is pursuing the course of creating its own marine taskforce to protect remote areas in the East China Sea.

    Nevertheless, Tamaki insisted on the de-escalation of the conflict, saying that if each of the conflicting parties will continue to insist on their own interests, then the problems cannot be solved. 

    “Constantly heated atmosphere must be cooled. I think we need to look for a common approach and develop common rules for the Senkaku Islands, so that during the negotiations we can launch new processes. Thus, it will be possible to open the way to joint action and involve Taiwan to participate in them,” Tamaki told Sputnik.

    He also noted that during the last meeting of the foreign ministers of Japan and the PRC, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi expressed hope for an early return of the two countries' relations to a path of "normal and healthy development".

    Earlier this month, Beijing called on Japanese authorities to avoid creating "artificial" incidents around the disputed islands, after the Japanese Kyodo news agency reported, citing the country's Defense Ministry, that a Chinese frigate and an unidentified foreign submarine had been detected outside Japanese territorial waters, near the islands.

    China says that the islands have been part of its territory since ancient times, while Japan argues the islands have been under its control since 1895. In 2014, the sides issued a joint four-point consensus on improving bilateral ties.

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    disputed islands, interview, conflict, Wang Yi, Senkaku Islands
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