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Senkaku activists arrested for illegal entry; China demands release

Date Posted: 2012-08-18

Five activists from Hong Kong who landed on one of the disputed Senkaku Islands are in Japanese police custody awaiting deportation, while the Chinese government is demanding the five, plus nine others, be released immediately.

The activists had landed on Uotsurijima, one of the Senkaku Islands in southern Okinawa Prefecture. Japan claims sovereignty over the islands, but so do China and Taiwan, who refer to the islands as Diaoyu. The Japan Coast Guard patrol vessel Kunigami brought them to Naha, where they’re undergoing questioning. All 14 have been charged with violating Japanese immigration control laws.

Seven of the 14 set foot on a Senkaku islet. Of the 14, nine included television news media. Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has ordered the activists deported. China is demanding that Japan “immediately and unconditionally” free the men. Protesters have gathered outside the Japanese diplomatic missions across China, with protests already staged near Japanese Consulate Generals in Shanghai, Guangzhou and Hong Kong, and in front of the Japanese Embassy in Beijing.

The United States is urging Japan and China to be cautious and refrain from provocative acts. “We expect the claimants to resolve the issue through peaceful means,” says U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland, “and any kinds of provocations are not helpful in that regard.” She reiterated that the United States is “not taking sides” on the dispute, but says the situation must “be resolved consensually, not through provocative acts.”

The Five Senkaku Islands are overseen by Ishigaki City on Japan’s behalf. The activists say they’ve not broken Japanese law since they assert the islands aren’t Japanese, but belong to China, so they don’t need passports to visit them.

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