China, Japan Trade Stunts Over Disputed Islands

With big gas fields under islets, neither country backing down
By Mark Russell,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 19, 2012 7:41 AM CDT
China, Japan Trade Stunts Over Disputed Islands
Japanese activists earlier today holding the national flags on Uotsuri island, one of the islands of Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in Chinese, in East China Sea.   (AP Photo/Kyodo News)

Chinese and Japanese activists are causing headaches in both countries over some islands in the East China Sea controlled by Japan, but claimed by both countries, reports the BBC. Called Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China (and in Taiwan, which also claims them), the uninhabited islands made the news last week when Chinese activists sailed there from Hong Kong and raised a Chinese flag on one islet. Fourteen activists were captured by Japan, leading to a huge outcry from China over their "illegal" capture; Japan deported them back to China on Friday.

Japanese activists then decided to return the favor, with 150 people on 21 boats setting sail yesterday, reports the Asahi Shimbun. Ten swam out to one islet today, raising Japanese flags, although they were quickly rounded up by the Japanese coast guard. "This is a way of saying to not mess around," says an activist leader. The island protest set off angry demonstrations around China, but with the islands sitting atop potentially huge natural gas fields, none of its claimants are expected to back down anytime soon. (Japan also has had problems recently with Dokdo, some small islets controlled by South Korea).

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