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Japan-China dispute over islands raises concerns

Publication Date : 21-08-2012


Tension between Tokyo and Beijing was ratcheted up a notch in the wake of massive demonstrations in more than 20 Chinese cities on Sunday, which prompted Japan to ask the Chinese authorities to ensure the security of Japanese residents in China.

Tokyo also dismissed the Chinese government's protest against the Sunday landing by 10 Japanese activists on the disputed Senkaku islands - called Diaoyu by the Chinese - saying it considers the landing a domestic affair.

Ignoring warnings by the Japanese Coast Guard not to do so, the 10 had gone ashore on Uotsuri Island, one of the Senkakus, just two days after Japan deported 14 Chinese protesters back to Hong Kong for landing on the same island.

In response to the Japanese activists' landing on the Senkakus, demonstrations erupted in more than 20 Chinese cities on Sunday.

In Shenzhen, Japanese-made cars were overturned by demonstrators, while a Japanese ramen shop in Hangzhou saw its glass frontage destroyed.

There were no immediate reports of Japanese nationals being harmed in the demonstrations. But Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura told a press conference yesterday that Japan has sought Chinese assistance in securing the safety of Japanese residents in China.

Most major Chinese dailies did not carry reports of the protests, but they played up the Senkaku landing by the 10 Japanese.

The Chinese Communist Party-linked Global Times newspaper splashed the story on its front page, together with pictures, saying the act by the Japanese represented a "challenge to China".

The paper also quoted analysts saying it was the "desire and obsession" of the Japanese to visit the Senkakus and proclaim their sovereignty over the islands.

The China Youth Daily, another Communist Party organ, said the call by demonstrators for the boycott of Japanese goods was an "expression of their resolve to protest" against the Japanese action. But it expressed concern that the protesters should act within the law.

Responding to Beijing's protest in a firm tone yesterday, Fujimura said: "Both Japan and China do not wish to see the situation over the Senkakus influence overall bilateral ties."

The government's chief spokesman told reporters that the landing by the 10 Japanese was considered a "violation of domestic law since Senkaku is Japanese territory".

Except for government personnel, no one is permitted to go ashore, he explained, calling the landing "regrettable". Japan, he stressed, will not acknowledge any protests from its neighbour.

Yesterday, police questioned the 10, but made no arrests. One of them, Hyogo prefectural assemblyman Yuichiro Wada, told reporters after his questioning: "I told police it is absurd that, for a Japanese, going ashore is against the law, while the Hong Kong activists were not found guilty."

More trouble lies ahead. Fujimura revealed that the Tokyo metropolitan government has applied for a permit from the central government to land on and conduct a survey of the islands.

Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara earlier infuriated Beijing after he declared his intention to buy the islands from its private sector owners.

The central government, which currently rents the islands from its owners and administers them, has also said it wants to purchase them.


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