Photo/IllutrationSome of the Senkaku Islands, including, from foreground, Minami-Kojima, Kita-Kojima and Uotsurishima (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

China, citing a territorial dispute with Japan, took exception to discussions in Paris on plans by Tokyo to nominate four islands as possible additions to UNESCO's list of world natural heritage sites.

Japan has nominated the four islands for inclusion in the World Heritage List under a single proposal. The islands are Amami-Oshima, Tokunoshima, the northern part of Okinawa island and Iriomote.

Environment Ministry officials said the nomination was submitted to UNESCO in February. The government is seeking to have the four islands inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2018. If the nomination is accepted, it would be the fifth site in Japan named as a natural heritage.

However, at an Oct. 26 meeting in Paris of the World Heritage Committee when the tentative lists of member nations were being confirmed, the Chinese representative took exception with the Japanese entry, expressing "strong opposition."

The Chinese official explained that Japan and China are locked in a territorial dispute over islands in the East China Sea which Japan calls the Senkaku Islands and China refers to as the Diaoyu Islands.

While the Japanese nomination as it currently stands does not include the Senkakus, China felt the nomination could be expanded to include those islands.

The Japanese representative at the meeting explained that Japan had no intention of expanding the range of the nomination outside of the four islands named and made clear the Senkakus would not even be included as a buffer zone that is occasionally established around nomination sites as one way of protecting the heritage site.

An official with the Environment Ministry's natural environment planning section in charge of the natural heritage nomination said, "The four islands came into being in a totally different manner from the Senkaku Islands and it is extremely difficult to consider any possibility of inscribing all those islands under a similar set of values."