China fumes after Japan flies flags on disputed isle

Landings spark protests

Several Japanese nationalists landed on Sunday on a rocky island in the East China Sea at the heart of a territorial row with Beijing, sparking protests in several Chinese cities and a diplomatic rebuke from Beijing.

Tokyo and Beijing have been feuding for decades over the island chain, known as the Senkaku in Japan and the Diaoyu in China, near potentially huge maritime gas fields.

Tensions flared last week after seven of a group of 14 Chinese activists slipped past Japan’s Coast Guard to land on one of the uninhabited isles and raise a Chinese flag.

Japan, keen to avoid a rerun of a nasty feud that chilled economic and diplomatic ties in 2010, deported the activists within days, but the dispute lingers because of China’s bitter memories of Tokyo’s past military occupation.

Early on Sunday, 10 members of a group of more than 100 Japanese nationalists who sailed to the island chain swam ashore to one of the islets and waved Japanese flags.

Three Japanese Coast Guard vessels were nearby, a Reuters TV journalist on board one of the boats said.

“I was hoping that someone with a real sense of Japanese spirit and courage would go and land and raise the flag, I just feel they’ve done a good job,” said Kazuko Uematsu, local lawmaker from Shizuoka Prefecture wh o was part of the flotilla.

The activists later swam back to their boats and were being questioned by Japanese Customs officials.

“The illegal behaviour of Japanese right-wingers has violated China’s territorial sovereignty,” China’s foreign ministry said. “An official from the foreign ministry has solemnly expressed to the Japanese ambassador in China (our) strong protest, and urge the Japanese side to stop behaviours that hurt China’s territorial sovereignty.”

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