Japan tightened its cordon of boats yesterday around a set of remote islands also claimed by China, blocking any new visits by activists that would inflame the dispute, while Beijing demanded that Tokyo release seven Chinese who landed on the isles this week.
Japanese police late yesterday said they would hand the activists over to immigration authorities, Japanese media said.
Immigration officials were likely to deport the activists, government sources had said earlier.
Japan's detention on Wednesday of the activists was the first such arrests in the international dispute over the archipelago known as Diaoyu in China and Senkaku in Japan. The islands are also claimed by Taiwan.
The incident further aggravates relations between Tokyo and Beijing, already tense over Japanese leader Junichiro Koizumi's annual visits to a war shrine, which Asian nations say glorifies Japan's militaristic past.
In China, state-run newspapers earlier yesterday trumpeted demands that Japan release the activists. About 50 protesters congregated outside the Japanese Embassy in Beijing, holding up banners claiming the islands as Chinese territory.
Japanese Coast Guard spokesman Masayoshi Iramina said vessels guarding the uninhabited islands were on heightened alert, but refused to say how many more ships had been added to regular patrols.
Japanese authorities had questioned the seven Chinese activists arrested for their allegedly illegal visit to the isle of Uotsuri.
The China Federation for Defending the Diaoyu Islands, which sent the first batch of activists, said it planned another trip to the island on Sunday with more than 30 people.
Japan's National Public Safety Commission chief, Kiyoko Ono, said the Chinese activists violated immigration laws and stressed that authorities would prevent any others, including Japanese, from reaching the island.
On Thursday, police stopped a Japanese right-wing extremist group from leaving for the island from nearby Okinawa.
"Our government disapproves of landings by Japanese," Ono said. "It goes without saying that we will reject foreign visitors, too."
Japan took control of the islands, located between Taiwan and Japan, when it defeated China in the 1895 Sino-Japanese war. The US had jurisdiction over them after WWII until 1972, when they were handed back to Japan. China says its claim dates back centuries.
Tokyo and Beijing have issued competing claims of ownership over the island. On Thursday, Beijing called the arrests "a challenge to Chinese sovereignty." Tokyo said the activists trespassed on Japanese land despite warnings to stay away.
The Chinese activists left the southeastern province of Zhejiang on a trawler on Wednesday, and reached the disputed island aboard smaller boats. The activists said they wanted to draw attention to China's claim over the island chain.
China had demanded Thursday that Japan release the activists "without any conditions."
Meanwhile, protesters in Beijing and Hong Kong denounced the arrests and burned Japanese flags, prompting a strong protest from Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi, who is to visit China from April 3.
"The flag-burning was extremely regrettable," Kawaguchi said.
Koizumi has said he hoped the diplomatic repercussions of the incident would be limited.
Japanese media said the dispute was more than just symbolic.
"The Senkaku islands aren't just about who owns these uninhabited islands. The area surrounding the islands is of extreme strategic importance because there are probably untapped oil resources," the national Asahi newspaper said in an editorial yesterday.
‘CONFESSED’: A court in Beijing said that former CCP member Ren Zhiqiang abused his power at a state firm and embezzled almost US$7.14 million of public funds A Chinese tycoon who called Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) a clown and criticized his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic was yesterday jailed for 18 years for corruption, bribery and embezzlement of public funds. Ren Zhiqiang (任志強) — once among the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) inner circle — disappeared from the public eye in March, shortly after penning an essay that lambasted Xi’s pandemic response. His outspokenness had earned the former chairman of state-owned property developer Huayuan Group the nickname “Big Cannon.” Yesterday’s verdict said that Ren embezzled almost 50 million yuan (US$7.4 million) of public funds and accepted bribes worth 1.25 million
AUSTRALIAN SITE: China has had a contract with SSC’s Yatharagga station since at least 2011, but the last time it used it was in June 2013. No final date has been given China would lose access to a strategic space tracking station in Western Australia when its contract expires, the facility’s owners said, a decision that cuts into Beijing’s expanding space exploration and navigational capabilities in the Pacific region. The Swedish Space Corp (SSC) has had a contract allowing Beijing access to the satellite antenna at the station since at least 2011. The station is located next to an SSC satellite station primarily used by the US and its agencies, including NASA. The Swedish state-owned company said it would not enter into any new contracts at the Australian site to support Chinese customers after
OFF BORDER ISLAND: The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel wearing a life jacket and leaving behind his shoes, indicating an intentional move, Seoul said North Korean soldiers shot dead a suspected South Korean defector at sea and burned his body as a COVID-19 precaution after he was interrogated in the water over several hours, Seoul military officials said yesterday. It is the first killing of a South Korean citizen by North Korean forces for a decade, and comes with Pyongyang at high alert over the COVID-19 pandemic and inter-Korean relations at a standstill. The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel near the western border island of Yeonpyeong on Monday, the official said. More than 24 hours later, North Korean forces located him in their waters and
The scarcity of commercial flights landing at Sydney Airport has been a disaster for airlines and workers, but for hobby pilots the COVID-19 pandemic has provided the opportunity of a lifetime. The quieter-than-usual runways mean that private pilots have been given the chance to land at the international airport for the first time. When Sydney Flight College club captain Tim Lindley put out a call, he received an overwhelming response. He eventually organized for 14 light aircraft to fly into Sydney airport on Sunday. “For a lot of the pilots involved, including myself, it was a childhood dream to land in a big