Japanese nationalists sail close to islands in dispute with China

EAST CHINA SEA Sat Aug 17, 2013 7:57pm EDT

Related Topics

EAST CHINA SEA (Reuters) - Five boats carrying about 20 members of a Japanese nationalist group arrived on Sunday in waters near tiny islands in the East China Sea at the center of a dispute between Japan and China, a move that risks escalating tensions between the two nations.

Members of the Ganbare Nippon ("Stand Firm, Japan") group said they did not plan to land on the uninhabited islands, which are known as the Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, but wanted to send a message to China.

"We want to show these islands are under Japanese control," Satoru Mizushima, the right-wing film maker who leads Ganbare Nippon, told activists before departure late on Saturday from a port in Okinawa. "We won't be doing anything extreme but we need to show the Chinese what we're made of."

The islands are located near rich fishing grounds and potentially large oil and gas reserves.

The Ganbare Nippon ships were surrounded by about 10 Japanese coast guard vessels when they approached within 1 nautical mile of the islands on Sunday morning. Coast guard crews in rubber boats urged them to leave through loud speakers.

Last week, Chinese patrol boats entered Japanese territorial waters and stayed there for more than 24 hours, the longest since surveillance around the islands was increased after Japan's government purchased several of them from a private owner in September last year.

Chinese and Japanese planes and patrol vessels have been playing cat-and-mouse near the islands, raising concerns that an unintended incident could escalate into a military clash.

The trip by the right-wing Japanese group comes days after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sent an offering to Tokyo's Yasukuni Shrine for war dead - seen by critics as a symbol of Japan's past militarism - on the anniversary of Japan's World War Two defeat.

Ganbare Nippon is not officially affiliated with any political party but its members have organized rallies to support Abe and visited Yasukuni en masse on Thursday, carrying Japanese flags and banners.

Last August, activists from Hong Kong landed on one of the disputed islands and were detained by Japanese authorities before being deported.

That incident triggered a wave of protests across China that grew larger after Japan's then-Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda agreed to buy three of the islands from a private landowner. By buying the islands, Noda had intended to prevent friction from heightening with Beijing and Taipei by thwarting a rival bid from a nationalist politician.

Shintaro Ishihara, a nationalist politician and then the governor of Tokyo, had led a fund-raising drive to buy the islands and build on them.

Abe, who consolidated his grip on power with a solid election victory in July on promises of economic revival, has called for dialogue with China and sent advisers to Beijing, trying to improve ties. China's public response to the overture has been chilly.

(Writing by Elaine Lies and Linda Sieg; Editing by Bill Trott and Sandra Maler)

FILED UNDER:
We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (8)
ronryegadfly wrote:
If Japan is so willing to stir up trouble with China over some tiny islands that aren’t even inhabited, then we should cancel our defense pact with them before they drag us into a senseless war.

Aug 17, 2013 7:18pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
JokerlovesQM wrote:
Well, to be fair, China did it first. But I must agree that it’s a stupid move by Japan.

Aug 17, 2013 8:07pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Rhino1 wrote:
Both sides of this stupid conflict are very short-sighted.

The ones who end up suffering most are the normal people of Japan and China who just want to live a normal peaceful life.

In Japan it has to be said that they made a huge mistake by electing the conservative LDP AGAIN. Silly people, you will get your nuclear power plants and your wasteful spending back, and on top of that a hardline diplomatic approach to the China problem.

And China? Just as stupid and ignorant of the facts of life. Yes, the apologies from Japan to China and Southkorea could have been a little more sincere and Japan’s actions nowadays could underline this sincerety a little more, but on the other hand, to blast the Chinese people with anti-Japanese propaganda on TV every night is not the action of a country that belongs in any such organization like the WTO or even the UN. Your approach, China, is outdated. True diplomacy, the one expected from a modern country of the 3rd millenium, tries to find peaceful solutions to territorial disputes. If you have a problem keeping your own people from rising up like a few years ago (we all remember how you cut down 3000 students in Tiananmen square), please do not try to distract them by starting a war (intended or accidental) with a nowadays peaceful nation.

Aug 17, 2013 9:44pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.