Japan, China islands disputes deepen with landings, protests

Posted on August 19, 2012

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EAST CHINA SEA, Aug 19 (Reuters) – 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.

Chinese activists who were deported from Japan, Bull Tsang Kin-shing, center at the front, and Koo Sze-yiu, center at the back, shout slogan after arriving in Hong Kong international airport Friday, Aug. 17, 2012. Seven of 14 Chinese activists arrested after landing on disputed islands left Japan by plane Friday and the others were being deported as well, relieving some tension from one of the territorial rows Tokyo has with its neighbors.
(Kin Cheung/AP)

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.

>> Japan-China island clash: Peace in a common history (The island clash between Japan and China, as well as other island disputes in East Asia, could be more easily resolved if neighbors shared a common view of history.)
>> Japanese Land on Disputed Islands as Protests Fuel China Tension (Ten Japanese yesterday landed on an island in the East China Sea claimed by both Japan and China, fueling a dispute between Asia’s two biggest economies in a region that has no shortage of territorial spats. The tit-for-tat mission by Japanese nationalists, including some legislators, came days after a group of mostly Hong Kong activists were arrested and deported for their own visit to the island in the chain known as Diaoyu in China and Senkaku in Japan. Demonstrators gathered in several cities in China and in Hong Kong to protest against what they said was Japan’s illegal occupation of the outcrops and detention of Chinese citizens.)

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 behavior of Japanese right-wingers has violated China’s territorial sovereignty,” China’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

“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 behaviors that hurt China’s territorial sovereignty.”

On Sunday, more than 100 protesters gathered near the Japanese consulate in southern Guangzhou, waving Chinese flags and banners urging the Japanese to leave the islands, Xinhua news agency reported.

Protesters also gathered in the cities of Shenzhen, Qingdao and Harbin, the news agency said.

In contrast, Japanese news agency Kyodo said protesters numbered in the thousands in the cities of Shenzhen and Hangzhou and that some people damaged Japanese cars and Japanese restaurants nearby.

“DON’T MESS AROUND”

Japan’s government had denied the group permission to land on the islands, which it leases from private Japanese citizens.

“This is a way of saying to not mess around,” Toshio Tamogami, a leader of the Japanese group, said before the flotilla set sail on Saturday.

The flotilla includes several members of parliament and local lawmakers.

“We hope to convey … both to China and the Japanese people that the Senkaku are our territory,” Tamogami said.

The renewed maritime tension with China has parallels with Beijing’s other recent tangles with Southeast Asian countries over rival territorial claims in the South China Sea.

China’s expanding naval reach has fed worries that it could brandish its military might to get its way.

The Sino-Japanese row has intensified in recent months since the nationalist governor of Tokyo proposed that the Tokyo Metropolitan Government buy the isles, prompting the central government to make its own bid to purchase them instead.

Japan’s ties with South Korea, where resentment over its 1910-1945 colonisation still remains, have also frayed since South Korean President Lee Myung-bak visited an uninhabited island claimed by both countries.

About 30 South Koreans held a ceremony on Sunday to unveil a monument on one of the barely inhabited islands, which are known as Dokdo in South Korea and as Takeshima in Japan.

The 1.2-metre tall monument is engraved with the Korean word for “Dokdo” on the front and “Republic of Korea” in Lee’s handwriting on the back.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, his ratings in tatters ahead of an election that may come soon, faces domestic pressure to take tough stances with Japan’s neighbours over the island disputes.

This is despite deep economic links and efforts by Seoul and Tokyo, both close U.S. allies, to forge closer security ties.

Govt must boost JCG power to control Senkaku Islands

The government should make further efforts to bolster the Japan Coast Guard’s policing abilities to maintain and stably manage the Senkaku Islands.

The government on Friday authorized the deportation of 14 people, including anti-Japan activists from Hong Kong, who were arrested earlier this week on suspicion of violating the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law by landing on Uotsurijima island, one of the Senkakus. Judicial proceedings against them were not taken because it was concluded their action did not constitute a serious violation of law, such as the obstruction of public duties.

Such a decision appears to be inevitable, but it is unlikely to bring down the curtain on this issue.

Anti-Japan groups such as the one based in Hong Kong have seen their funding boosted and are likely to step up their activities. There are signs that the latest Senkaku incident could develop into anti-Japan protests throughout China.

The government should press China again not to ignore such provocative acts by private groups.

Be cautious of China’s tactics

Regarding measures to prevent further illegal intrusions onto the islands, Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said at a press conference, “Ministers concerned will swiftly deal with the matter.”

Members of the government must share the same recognition of what is at stake and establish a system to quickly eliminate illegal acts.

There is concern that the Chinese government could try to take control of events if another incident like this one flares up in the future.

China has expanded its effective control of the South China Sea, where it has territorial disputes with neighboring countries, by having fishing boats enter disputed waters and then deploying fisheries patrol vessels and warships for the ostensible purpose of protecting the fishing boats.

The situation of the East China Sea, where the Senkaku Islands are located, differs from that of the South China Sea, but the government needs to be cautious to prevent Beijing from using similar tactics.

China reportedly plans to increase its number of patrol vessels to 520 by 2020, including ones to be deployed in the East China Sea.

In contrast, the JCG has basically taken a scrap-and-build strategy for patrol vessels. A significant increase from the current fleet of about 360 patrol vessels would be difficult. The JCG is bound to be overtaken by its Chinese counterparts in terms of both quality and quantity. The time has come for Japan to consider plans to expand JCG power.

Buildup plans for JCG needed

We suggest the government create mid- and long-term buildup plans for the JCG, analogous to the National Defense Program Outline and the Mid-Term Defense Program for the Self-Defense Forces.

During a plenary session of the House of Representatives in July, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said, “The government will respond firmly [to intrusions on Japanese territory including the Senkaku Islands] and use the SDF if necessary.”

The SDF needs to speed up work to increase its surveillance of the Nansei Islands to counter China’s naval buildup.

The presence of the U.S. military is also important. The Senkaku Islands fall within areas for Japan-U.S. joint defense.

The U.S. deployment of new MV-22 Osprey transport aircraft to Okinawa Prefecture would enhance the mobility of U.S. marines in times of emergency. It would also be conducive to protecting the Senkaku Islands. The latest Senkaku incident reaffirms the need for the deployment.

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Protests build in China over Japan island row

Protests broke out in at least six Chinese cities on Sunday as people took to the streets after Japanese nationalists landed on an island claimed by both countries, state media said.

77-year-old Chen Wing is seen shouting anti-Japanese slogans as he stages a one-man protest against Japan’s claim of disputed islands in the South China Sea, outside a shopping mall in Wuhan, central China’s Hubei province, on August 18. Protests broke out in at least six Chinese cities on Sunday as people took to the streets after Japanese nationalists landed on one of the islands.

The nationalists raised Japanese flags on Uotsurijima just days after Tokyo deported pro-Beijing protesters who had landed on the island. China had warned against acts “harming” its territorial sovereignty.

More than a hundred people gathered near the complex housing the Japanese consulate in China’s southern city of Guangzhou, chanting “Japan get out of the Diaoyu Islands,” the official Xinhua news agency said.

In nearby Shenzhen, which borders Hong Kong, protesters gathered at an outdoor plaza, waving Chinese flags and shouting slogans, Xinhua said, but did not give the number of participants.

Zhang Pei, one participant, said protesters were marching towards the train station on the border with Hong Kong.

“The demonstration is strung out for seven to eight kilometres (four to five miles). Many police are escorting us along the street,” he told AFP by telephone.

He could not give an estimate of the number of protesters, but said participants were swelling as the march continued.

Xinhua said protests also took place in four other cities, including eastern Hangzhou and Qingdao, as well as the northeastern cities of Shenyang and Harbin.

Beijing on Saturday rebuked Japan over the planned island visit.

“China has made solemn representations to Japan, demanding that it immediately cease actions harming China’s territorial sovereignty,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.

Anti-Japan protests have broken out in several cities in the past week, including the capital Beijing, commercial hub of Shanghai and Qingdao and Binzhou in the eastern province of Shandong, state media and witnesses said.

The island is part of a chain claimed by China. China calls the archipelago Diaoyu, but it is controlled by Japan, which calls it Senkaku.

On Saturday, hundreds gathered in the northern city of Xian to protest over the detention of 14 pro-China activists and journalists who had sailed from Hong Kong to land on the islands, Xinhua said in a separate report.

Japan on Friday deported the 14 people, who were arrested after arriving in the area on Wednesday.

Bangkok Post

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