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Assemblymen visit Senkakus; stir a diplomatic hornet's nest

Date Posted: 2010-12-16

Two Ishigaki City municipal assembly members complying with a city resolution mandating a visit to the Senkaku Islands did so this week, a move that triggered an immediate diplomatic protest from China.

The assemblymen landing on Minami Kojima in the morning, leaving a short time later after they had inspected the island. China wasted no time protesting, with the Chinese Foreign Ministry and Beijing lodging a strong complaint, saying it serious violated the country’s sovereignty and territory. China has long laid claim to the rocky islets located 480 kilometers southwest of Okinawa’s main island, but Japan also claims sovereignty. For that matter, so does Taiwan.

The firestorm over the Senkakus began in September when a Chinese fishing trawler rammed two Japan Coast Guard vessels near the uninhabited islands. China and Japan sparred over the incident, with Japan insisting the islands are an inherent part of Japanese territory, while China argued the same. In response, the Ishigaki Municipal Assembly on October 20th unanimously adopted a resolution calling for the city’s mayor, Yoshitaka Nakayama, and assembly members to conduct an on-site inspection of the craggy islands.

The assemblymen, Hitoshi Nakama and Yoichi Minhosoko, were to have visited Uotsurijima, the largest island of the island chain, but switched islands due to weather. They were on Minami Kojima about 40 minutes before returning to Ishigaki. Japan Coast Guard and Okinawa Prefectural Police have questioned the two regarding the visit; there are some concerns the pair may have violated the law by stepping onto the island, which is private property leased to the Japanese government.

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