BEIJING, Sept 18: China´s defence minister said Tuesday his country reserved the right to take "further actions" to resolve a territorial dispute with Japan but voiced hope the feud would be settled through diplomacy.
Beijing is following the situation in the East China Sea closely "and we reserve rights to further actions", General Liang Guanglie said through an interpreter at a joint news conference with US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.
"Of course, that being said, we still hope for a peaceful and negotiated solution to this issue," Liang said when asked if China would use its military power in the crisis.
The islets, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, are uninhabited but situated in rich fishing waters and said to sit atop valuable natural resources. They are controlled by Japan but claimed by China and Taiwan.
The general blamed Tokyo for the spike in tensions, saying the archipelago has belonged to China for centuries, dating back to the Ming dynasty.
"The current escalation of tension over this dispute was totally caused by the Japanese side," he said.
Washington has a security alliance with Tokyo and Panetta appealed to both sides to lower the temperature.
"With respect to these current tensions, we are urging calm and restraint by all sides," the US defence chief told the same press conference.
"It is no country´s interest for this situation to escalate into conflict that would undermine peace and stability in this very important region.
"This has been my consistent message throughout the week," said Panetta, who stopped in the Japanese capital before flying to Beijing on Monday.