SENKAKU ISLANDS, Japan (AP) — Japanese activists swam ashore and raised flags Sunday on an island claimed by both Japan and China, fanning an escalating territorial dispute between the two Asian powers.
Some 10 activists made an unauthorized landing on Uotsuri, the largest in a small archipelago known in Japan as the Senkaku Islands and in China as Diaoyu Islands. The uninhabited islands surrounded by rich fishing grounds are controlled by Japan but also claimed by China and Taiwan.
China’s Foreign Ministry protested Saturday, before the visit even happened.
“Any unilateral action taken by Japan on the islands is illegal and invalid,” it said in a statement issued on its website.
On Sunday, China’s official Xinhua News Agency reported that hundreds of people in cities across the country marched in protest.
Days earlier, a group of 14 Hong Kong residents and mainland Chinese had traveled by boat to the islands, and some swam ashore. Protesters in Beijing, Hong Kong and other cities praised them as heroes and burned Japanese flags, but Japan arrested them for landing without authorization.
On Friday, Tokyo deported the group, seeking to quiet the regional spat. But plans for further visits by activists on both sides appear likely to further inflame the territorial tensions.
Taiwanese Foreign Minister Timothy Yang summoned Japan’s de facto ambassador to Taiwan, Sumio Tarui, on Sunday to lodge a protest over the visit to Senkaku by Japanese activists, saying the “provocative act” had heightened tensions in the area, according to a ministry statement.
The spat over long-contested territories comes as China’s ruling communist party prepares for a major leadership transition. Leaders in both China and Japan face strong domestic pressure to defend national interests.
Frictions have also flared up recently over another set of disputed islands, controlled by South Korea.
South Korean President Lee Myung-bak visited the islands in the Sea of Japan, called Takeshima in Japanese and Dokdo in Korean, earlier this month. His visit was seen by many as an attempt to play up anti-Japan sentiment ahead of elections later this year.
In the latest move to reinforce its territorial claim, South Korea unveiled Sunday a 47-inch- (120-centimeter-) tall monument in the disputed islets, emblazoned in Korean with “Dokdo” in front, “Republic of Korea” on the back and President Lee Myung-bak’s name on the side.
The Coast Guard did not identify by name those who landed on Uotsuri Island on Sunday. They were members of a group of ultra-conservative parliamentarians and local politicians who were visiting waters off the disputed islands over the weekend to mourn for the victims of a boat accident near there at the end of World War II.
“Four days ago there was an illegal landing of Chinese people on the island — as such we need to solidly reaffirm our own territory,” said Koichi Mukoyama, a lawmaker who was among seven conservative parliamentarians aboard a boat in the flotilla of some 20 vessels that traveled to the islands.
Photos from Japan’s Kyodo News Agency showed several men and a woman, in street clothes still wet from swimming ashore, brandishing the Japanese flag atop rocks on the shore of the uninhabited island.
Last week’s visit by the Chinese activists raised calls by critics of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s government to take stronger action to protect the islands. Some lawmakers are urging that Japan’s military be called on to protect the islands.
Japan says it has controlled the five main islands for more than 100 years. It has been trying to place four that are privately held under state ownership to bolster its territorial claim.
Associated Press writer Elaine Kurtenbach in Tokyo contributed to this report.
More Related Stories
- New campaign compares gun control to anti-LGBT discrimination
- Study: Salt Lake City is gay parenting capital of the U.S.
- Inhofe and Coburn: Red state hypocrites
- Teen activist to meet with Abercrombie CEO
- Watch: Family emerges from storm shelter after tornado
- Must-see morning clip: Barackalypse Now
- Okla. tornado survivor reunited with dog trapped in rubble live on camera
- Is Pope Francis an exorcist?
- Oklahoma death count confirmed at 24, 9 children
- Frantic parents search for children in tornado's wake
- Crews dig through rubble after deadly tornado
- 51 killed in massive Oklahoma tornado
- Don't cry climate-change wolf
- Record tornado devastates Oklahoma
- Limbaugh: No one willing to impeach the first black president
- Tornado reduces Oklahoma City suburb to rubble
- AP: Toll at least 37 dead in Okla. tornado
- Entire Midwest on tornado warning
- Oregon senator proposes appeal to Monsanto Protection Act
- Supreme Court to rule on prayer at government meetings
- Beltway scandal machine breaks, knows nothing about America
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11