The online news portal of TV5
TAIPEI - President Ma Ying-jeou said Tuesday Taiwan would not join hands with China against Japan in a territorial dispute involving an archipelago in the East China Sea claimed by all three sides.
The dispute has traditionally pitted Taiwan and China on the one hand against Japan on the other, while the territorial issue has so far very rarely given rise to any friction between Taipei and Beijing.
But in an interview with Japanese public broadcaster NHK, Ma said Taiwan has no intention to work with China to avoid hurting Taiwan-Japan ties, according to a statement released by his office.
"We want to let our Japanese friends know that we take our relations with Japan very seriously," he said.
"We think what's important is not just asking self-restraint of any one particular side but that everyone should think of peace to seek peaceful resolution to the dispute."
Taiwan summoned Japan's representative on Sunday to protest against the "provocative" act by a group of Japanese nationalists who landed on one of the islands, which are administered by Tokyo and also claimed by China and Taiwan.
The islands are known as Diaoyu in Chinese and Senkaku in Japanese and have been at the centre of a bitter territorial row between China and Japan.
They may lie on top of significant oil reserves, and their strategic value is also considerable, but according to observers national pride is also a major reason for the acrimony attaching to the dispute.
A joint survey by a Taiwanese and a Chinese paper published in July showed that a majority of people in both Taiwan and China hope the two sides can work together to resolve the row.
But Taiwan's Democratic Progressive Party, which is deeply sceptical of closer ties with China, said last week that Taipei should not work with Beijing over the issue.
China also lodged a "strong protest" with Japan's embassy in Beijing after the landing and reiterated its demand for Japan to stop actions which harmed its territorial sovereignty.
The landing came just days after Tokyo deported 14 pro-Beijing protesters from Hong Kong and Macau who had landed on the island.
Taiwan has maintained close trade and cultural ties with Japan even though it was a Japanese colony between 1895 and 1945. Like most countries, Tokyo officially recognises Beijing rather than Taipei.