The escalating territorial disputes in another corner of the world sent a ripple in the UN general debate, no matter how carefully nations tread around it.

In his address to the General Assembly, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda touched on the tug-of-war for territories that have embroiled the Asian region in the brink of a military conflict. Mr. Noda vowed to protect “Japan’s land and sea” but went on to call for “a stronger rule of law” as tensions mounted in pursuit of sovereignty.

“Any state has a responsibility to protect peace, ensure the safety of its people, and protect its sovereignty, territorial land and sea,” Mr. Noda said, reiterating Japan’s responsibility in accordance to international law. Though Mr. Noda opted not to mention either China or South Korea in his speech, the prime minister condemned the use of “force or threat”, an apparent swipe at the violent anti-Japanese protests across China and Beijing’s “strong reactions”. Mr. Noda also said that Tokyo “consistently” accepted the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice as compulsory, a hint at South Korea’s refusal to take the territorial row to the judiciary organ of the UN.

China said that ownership of the territory should be solved on “historical and legal basis”, according to Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang in response to Mr. Noda’s speech. “The country concerned must face up to history and earnestly abide by international legal principles, and cease all actions that infringe the territorial integrity and sovereignty of other countries,” state run Xinhua News Agency quoted Mr. Qin saying.