BEIJING (AP) — China will never compromise on its sovereignty, security or development interests, its leader said Tuesday, expressing a firm line on foreign affairs amid territorial disputes with Japan and other neighboring countries.
Xi Jinping told members of the ruling Communist Party’s Politburo that China would stick to its policy of peaceful development but would never sacrifice its legitimate rights or basic interests.
“No foreign country should expect us to make a deal on our core interests and hope we will swallow the bitter pill that will damage our sovereignty, security and development interests,” Xi told the 25-member body in remarks carried prominently on state television’s evening news broadcast.
Xi’s comments reflect observers’ views that the son of one of the Communist state’s founding fathers would take a relatively tough stand in foreign affairs in keeping with China’s recent assertiveness in its territorial claims.
It comes during a conflict with Japan that has seen Beijing routinely send ships to confront Tokyo’s coast guard in waters surrounding islands both claim in the East China Sea. The standoff over the uninhabited group, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, has threatened to spark a clash, either by accident or intentionally, and both sides have urged talks to manage the dispute without backing down on their claims to own the islands.
In the highest-level contact between the sides since tensions over the islands spiked in September, Xi met last week with an envoy of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and accepted a cordial letter from the Japanese leader.
The two men also discussed a possible summit between Xi and Abe and appeared to dial back some of the intensity of the dispute. In Japan, Abe told a television talk show on Tuesday that he would be willing to meet with Xi to help mend ties, but that Japan would not negotiate over ownership of the islands.
Tensions soared after Japan’s government bought the islands from their private Japanese owners in September, sparking anti-Japanese rioting in Chinese cities and sending trade and tourism into a tailspin.
Tokyo says it is clear the islands belong to Japan and has rejected China’s demand that it acknowledge a sovereignty dispute.
The islands are surrounded by rich fishing grounds and potential gas, oil and other undersea deposits. For Chinese, the dispute has reawakened bitter memories of Japan’s conquest of Chinese territory beginning in 1895 and its brutal World War II occupation of much of the country.
Overlapping claims among China and its neighbors have also raised tensions in the South China Sea. Beijing has pushed ahead with development in the Paracel Islands, which are also claimed by Vietnam, and confronted Philippine ships in Scarborough Shoal to the east that both countries claim.
Intent on seizing the title of Asia’s dominant power, Beijing has bitterly criticized moves by the U.S. to reassert its presence in the region through strengthened relations with friendly states, including a decision to base U.S. Marines in northern Australia.