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Uninhabited Senkaku Islands gaining worldwide attention

Date Posted: 2012-08-24

First the Chinese activists from Hong Kong boarded boats and illegally landed on one of the five uninhabited Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, and then Japanese swept down to the southern Okinawa islands for a landing of their own, and then the diplomatic version of “all hell broke loose”.

Fourteen activists battled heavy seas to land on Uotsuri, the largest of the islands, on Sunday, where they were promptly arrested. Five were taken into custody by Okinawa Prefectural Police and the other nine by Japan’s Coast Guard. All are in Naha now, being prepared for deportation tomorrow.

Rightwing Japanese nationalists violated the rules that prohibit anyone from setting foot on the islands under Japan’s control but administered by Ishigaki City. About a dozen members of Ganbare Nippon, meaning ‘Hang in there Japan’, swam ashore from a 20-boat flotilla, raising the ire of Japanese, Chinese and Taiwanese officials. The small island chain is governed by Japan, but also claimed by China and Taiwan, who call the islands Diaoyu.

Tokyo politician Eiji Kosuka was a leader of the Japanese nationalist group, raising the Japanese flag to prove the islands are part of Japan. Kosaka, from Tokyo’s Arakawa Ward, was excited, declaring “this is undoubtedly Japanese territory, as on the mountain we found Japanese style houses that had places for drying fish.” He noted the humiliation Japanese felt about the Chinese landings on August 15th, the 67th anniversary of Japan’s World War II surrender.

Two Japanese Coast Guard ships broadcast demands they leave the island, but they had no authority to make arrests on land. “These islands are ours,” said Kanagawan politician Kenichi Kojima. “Japan’s future is at stake.” After five hours, the group vacated the island, with Kosaka declaring “this trip was a great success.”

China was furious. Beijing’s Foreign Ministry declared “China has made solemn representations to Japan, demanding that it immediately cease actions harming China’s territorial sovereignty.” The 14 Chinese who set foot on the islands last week were the first non-Japanese since 2004 to land on any of the Senkaku islands.

Waves of anti-Japan rallies swept across China, with more than 5,000 turning out in Shenzhen. Others in Hangzhou also turned violent as protesters vandalized Japanese stores, restaurants and vehicles, as well as burned Japanese flags. The protests were the first anti-Japan events since 2010. Others held occasional demonstrations in front of the Japanese Embassy in Beijing.

Taiwan’s annoyance over the Senkaku landings led Foreign Minister Timothy Yang to summon Japan’s ambassador to lodge a protest over the Japanese landing on a Senkaku island. Yang told Ambassador Sumio Tarui the 10 Japanese landing on the island was a “provocative act” and said the move significantly heightened tensions in the East China Sea. He asked Japan to refrain from any further actions that infringe upon Taiwan’s territorial sovereignty, repeating that the islands belong to the Republic China, Taiwan’s official name.

Chinese say they’ll file claims for damages from Japan. The activists deported say they were forced by Japanese Police to sign papers admitting to various charges, and that their video and cameras were confiscated by Japanese. They were all charged of violating Japanese immigration control laws, but they call the arrests illegal since they maintain the islands are Chinese.

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