01/03/2012, 00.00
CHINA – JAPAN
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Two Japanese politicians land on Senkaku (Diaoyu), Beijing protests

The small uninhabited islands in the East China Sea are claimed by Japan, China and Taiwan. They are thought to have major oil and gas reserves. Japan normally keeps people away to avoid diplomatic incidents.
Tokyo (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Two Japanese politicians from the Ishigaki Municipal Assembly (Okinawa) and two other people landed this morning on the Senkaku Islands (Diaoyu in Chinese) in the East China Sea without prior notification or permission. The islands are at the centre of a territorial dispute.

Japan's coast guard said "someone" went to the isles, and stayed there for more than two hours. The move came as Japan and China commemorate the 40th anniversary of normalisation of diplomatic ties.

Separately, a dozen pro-China activists also headed for the disputed islands on Tuesday, aboard a boat bearing a Chinese flag that set sail from Hong Kong on a journey expected to take two or three days. "Diaoyu Island is ours. It is from our ancestors. We are protesting Japan's attitude and actions," their spokesman Huang Hsi-lin told reporters before departing.

The pro-China group, including activists from Taiwan and Hong Kong, has made repeated attempts to land on the islands, but apart from one successful foray in 1996 they have been blocked by Japanese patrol vessels.

The Japanese government has banned entry in a bid to prevent political incidents.

Of the four Japanese who landed on the island, two were identified as Hitoshi Nakama and Tadashi Nakamine, of the Ishigaki municipal assembly, whilst the identities of the other two were not immediately known.

In September 2010, relations between Tokyo and Beijing turned icy after a collision between a Japanese coast guard vessel and a Chinese fishing boat off the isles.

Later, Tokyo and Beijing set up a high-level meeting on maritime affairs in an effort to reduce tensions.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Beijing had "raised its solemn representations and protest" with Tokyo and reiterated its "indisputable sovereignty" over the chain of islands.

"China's determination to safeguard its sovereignty of the Diaoyu islands is unswerving," Hong said in a statement.

The foreign ministry also confirmed it had summoned a "diplomatic envoy" from the Japanese embassy in Beijing.

The tiny isles, which are believed to be surrounded by oil and gas reserves, have been a source of friction between the Asian neighbours for decades.
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