Chinese activists landed on a disputed island in the East China Sea as a wave of anti-Japanese protests swept Asia on the 67th anniversary of the end of the Second World War.
Outrage was provoked by a visit by two cabinet ministers to the Yakusuni shrine in Tokyo, which commemorates 2.5 million Japanese war dead, including 1,054 war criminals and 14 “Class A” war criminals.
A spokesman for the Chinese Foreign ministry said he hoped Japan would take “concrete actions” to “correctly see” its history of invasion and that it would “respect the feelings” of people in Asian countries.
The practice of visiting the shrine on the anniversary of Japan’s surrender, which was revived by Junichiro Koizumi, the then prime minister, in 2006.
Japan’s neighbours expressed hopes that visits to the shrine would cease after Mr Koizumi left office.
Meanwhile, a group of Chinese activists managed to evade Japan’s coastguard, which fired on them with water cannons, and plant a Chinese flag on the Diaoyu islands, which are also claimed by Japan as the Senkaku’s.
Japanese police initially arrested five activists who swam ashore in the East China Sea chain, known as Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in Chinese.
Japan Coast Guard officers later arrested nine others who stayed on the fishing boat, the Kai Fung 2, including two who had earlier landed on one of the islands called Uotsuri and went back aboard, officials said.
The island chain moved into the spotlight again in April when Shintaro Ishihara, the 79-year-old governor of Tokyo, announced that he wanted to buy the Senkaku’s for Japan.
He has so far raised more than $17 million in donations, while announcing that Japan is heading for an “inevitable” confrontation with China, to the delight of nationalists.
Xu Dunxin, a Chinese former Foreign vice-minister, said that some Japanese politicians were stirring up nationalism for political capital. “The farcical episodes are exploiting the domestic nationalist mood to take advantage while damaging China-Japan ties,” he told the China Daily newspaper.
The Chinese activists who made it ashore sang patriotic songs and shouted in jubilation. The Japanese Foreign ministry warned it would “take appropriate action”, while China, through the state-run Global Times newspaper, warned that it would “send warships” to the islands if the activists were touched.
A second attempt to reach the islands by a group of Taiwanese activists was thwarted by a typhoon.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong residents tore up paper replicas of the Japanese military flag, and there were small protests at Japanese government offices in Taipei and Beijing.
There were memorial services to mark the anniversary in Nanjing, Changchun and in Guangzhou, where a new exhibit opened to celebrate General Chen Kefei, a key figure in the anti-Japanese war.
Relations between Japan and South Korea have also deteriorated, and a South Korean pop star yesterday led a group of 40 students in a swim to another disputed island chain, the Liancourt Rocks, known as Dokdo in Korea and Takeshima in Japan.
Last week Japan recalled its ambassador to Seoul and cancelled a meeting with South Korea’s Finance minister after Lee Myung Bak, the South Korean president, made a sudden and unexpected visit to the islands, possibly to stir up support for his party ahead of elections in December. “It is extremely regrettable,” said Japan's Foreign minister, Koichiro Gemba.
During the Olympics, a South Korean footballer, Park Jong Woo, held up a sign saying “Dokdo is our land”, and was promptly banned from receiving his bronze medal.----
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