U.S. call for cool heads and calm waters in China-Japan island dispute

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged China and Japan on Thursday to let “cool heads” prevail in a festering dispute over a cluster of East China Sea islands, but hours later Chinese and Japanese diplomats traded barbs at the United Nations.

Clinton met Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi on the sidelines of this week’s U.N. General Assembly meeting in New York and said it was important to ratchet down the quarrel over the islands that has soured ties between Asia’s two largest economies, a senior State Department official said.

The uninhabited islets, whose nearby waters are thought to hold potentially rich natural gas reserves, are known as the Diaoyu islands in China and the Senkaku islands in Japan. They have been under Japan’s control since 1895.

“The secretary … again urged that cooler heads prevail, that Japan and China engage in dialogue to calm the waters,” the official told reporters.

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Japan wants ‘concrete’ N. Korea steps before talks

Japan’s foreign minister on Thursday called for renewed dialogue on the divided Korean peninsula, but said the North should first take "concrete actions" to lower tensions.

"The nuclear and missile development issue of DPRK (North Korea) is a cause for major concern," Seiji Maehara said in a speech to a Washington think tank before meeting with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

"What is most important is that a North Korea-South Korea dialogue be opened up," Maehara said at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

But, North Korea "needs to first take concrete actions," he said, without providing further details.

Speaking through a translator during a question-and-answer session, Maehara said North Korea "these days is escalating the level of its provocation against the region and the international community."

He referred to the sinking of a South Korean warship last May, as well as the North’s deadly shelling of a South Korean border island in November that sparked some of the worst saber-rattling since the 1950-1953 war.

He also cited a long-running dispute with Pyongyang over Japanese citizens abducted by North Korean spies in the 1970s and 80s. The kidnap victims were forced to train Pyongyang’s secret agents in Japanese language and culture.

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