By Jennifer Saba
(Reuters) - With world leaders gathered in New York for the United Nations General Assembly, China has taken its dispute with Japan over the ownership of a chain of islands to the ad pages of major American newspapers.
China Daily, an organ of the Communist Party and the country's official English-language daily newspaper, took out full-page-spread advertisements on Friday in the New York Times and the Washington Post.
The ad's headline asserts "Diaoyu Islands Belong to China" over a color picture of the string of islands in the East China Sea. It says the islands "have been an inherent territory of China since ancient times."
Ownership of the islands has become a major flashpoint in deteriorating Sino-Japanese relations. The potentially gas-rich uninhabited islets, administered by Japan for years, have been claimed by China and Taiwan, where they are known as Diaoyu and Tiaoyutai, respectively.
The festering dispute figured prominently at the General Assembly this week as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged China and Japan on Thursday to let "cooler heads" prevail.
In September, Japan brought the chain - known to the Japanese as the Senkaku Islands - under state control through a "purchase" from a private owner.
A spokesperson for the Japanese consulate in New York defended Japan's ownership of the islands but would not comment on the Chinese ads.
(Editing by Mary Milliken and Ciro Scotti)