Japan's newly-appointed Chinese ambassador dies

Shinichi Nishimiya (C) pictured in 2005 at a meeting of the  Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Story highlights

  • Japanese Foreign Ministry confirms Shinichi Nishimiya, 60, died on Sunday
  • Nishimiya was due to replace the current Japanese envoy in Beijing -- Uichiro Niwa
  • His death comes amid worsening relations between China and Japan
  • Both countries claim sovereignty over a group of islands in the East China Sea

The newly appointed Japanese ambassador to China has died after taking ill and collapsing in Tokyo late last week.

In a brief statement, the Japanese Foreign Ministry confirmed Shinichi Nishimiya, 60, died on Sunday after spending the weekend in hospital because of his "health condition." He collapsed just two days after being appointed to the job.

The ministry did not disclose any further details about what had happened.

Panasonic closes China plants after protests

Previously a deputy minister for foreign affairs, Nishimiya was due to replace the current Japanese envoy in Beijing, 72-year-old Uichiro Niwa, in the coming weeks amid heightened tensions between Japan and China.

The Japanese government's recent purchase of a set of disputed islands in the East China Sea from a private owner has angered Beijing, which has called the acquisition "illegal and invalid."

Asian islands dispute: Who claims what?

Tensions rise over Asian islands
Tensions rise over Asian islands


    Tensions rise over Asian islands


Tensions rise over Asian islands 01:59
Disputed islands in East China Sea
Disputed islands in East China Sea


    Disputed islands in East China Sea


Disputed islands in East China Sea 02:15
Why is Japan feuding over islands?
Why is Japan feuding over islands?


    Why is Japan feuding over islands?


Why is Japan feuding over islands? 02:25

On Friday China sent six surveillance vessels to carry out patrols around the remote islands, which Japan calls Senkaku and China calls Diaoyu, in an effort to underscore its claim to sovereignty. The ships briefly entered Japanese territorial waters despite warnings not to do so, the Japanese Coast Guard said.

The dispute also hit a nerve with many ordinary Chinese, as tens of thousands took to the streets at the weekend to protest against Japan's stance. In Beijing, Japan's embassy was attacked with eggs and bottles, while angry mobs in other cities across China ransacked Japanese businesses and burned Japanese-made cars.

iReport: Caught in anti-Japan protest

Though Japanese officials have sought to play down the significance of the deal to buy the islands, the dispute has come to represent what many Chinese people see as unfinished business: redressing the impact of the Japanese occupation of large swathes of eastern China during the 1930s and 1940s.

China says its claim goes back hundreds of years. Japan says it saw no trace of Chinese control of the islands in an 1885 survey, so formally recognized them as Japanese sovereign territory in 1895.

Japan then sold the islands in 1932 to descendants of the original settlers. The Japanese surrender at the end of World War II in 1945 only served to cloud the issue further.

The islands were administered by the U.S. occupation force after the war. But in 1972, Washington returned them to Japan as part of its withdrawal from Okinawa.

      Asia's disputed islands

    • The Sierra Madre was grounded on the Second Thomas Shoal by the Philippines authorities in the 1990s — a detachment of marines is stationed on the rusting hulk.

      Wrecks, rats, roaches

      At first sight it looks like a scene from a post-apocalyptic movie. Journalist Tomas Etzler travels to one of the most remote locations in the South China Sea -- the front line of a dispute between the Philippines and China.
    • This disputed islands in the East China Sea are known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China.

      Opinion: China's balancing act

      President Xi Jinping has reshaped China's foreign policy by recalibrating its stresses on sovereignty and stability, writes Shen Dingli.
    • This photo taken on October 23, 2013 shows Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) fighter jets leaving their base in Shanghai. Beijing's behaviour in its row with Tokyo over disputed islands is jeopardising peace, Japan's defence minister said on October 29, days after China warned a reported plan to shoot down its drones would constitute "an act of war". AFP PHOTO / Mark RALSTONMARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images

      War of words heats tensions

      Surprise, surprise, Japan and China are still not getting along, writes Jeff Kingston of Temple University in Japan.
    • Players are asked to fight Japan over disputed real-life islands in "Glorious Mission Online," a video game co-developed by the Chinese People's Liberation Army.

      Chinese gamers mimic island fight

      Players join the ranks of the country's military to take on the enemy in China's first online game co-developed by the People's Liberation Army.
    • An aerial view of Sansha -- China's newest city, which is located on Woody Island and part of the Paracels.

      China to open islands to tourism

      Sightseeing cruises soon to set sail to China's newest city, Sansha, located on a disputed island in the South China Sea, a Chinese official said.