Japanese-Chinese Island Dispute Heats Up With Beijing Defense Minister “Reserving the Right to Act”

China’s national defense minister warned Tuesday that Beijing reserves the right to take further action against Japan in the ongoing dispute over uninhabited islands in the East China Sea.

Standing next to U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Gen. Liang Guanglie said Japan should bear full responsibility for the dispute, which has triggered violent protests in China against the Japanese. Panetta has been pressing both Liang and defense leaders in Japan to find ways to resolve the problem peacefully and diplomatically.

Liang, however, made it clear during a press conference that while China still would like to see a negotiated solution, he hopes the Japanese government “will undo its mistakes and come back to the right track of negotiations.” Tensions over the string of islands, called the Senkakus in Japan and Diaoyu in China, spiked last week when the Japanese government said it was purchasing some of the islands from their private owner.

The island dispute has been a hot topic during Panetta’s weeklong tour of the Asia-Pacific region. But his session with Liang also touched on a wide expanse of issues as the U.S. and China try to find a way to improve their military relationship.

U.S. relations with China have been rocky, especially over America’s support of and arms sales to Taiwan, the self-governing island that Beijing claims as its own. The U.S. also has been critical of China for its lack of transparency regarding its massive military buildup.

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