Saturday, August 18, 2012

Japan activists sail for islands despite China anger

ISHIGAKI, Japan — A flotilla of boats carrying Japanese nationalists and lawmakers set sail Saturday for islands at the heart of a vitriolic diplomatic row with China, despite warnings from Beijing.

Around 150 people, including eight parliamentarians, left far southwest Ishigaki bound for the archipelago in the East China Sea, a day after Japan deported pro-China activists who had sailed there from Hong Kong.

The voyage came as Beijing told Tokyo it had to immediately cease actions "harming" its territorial sovereignty.

"I want to show the international community that these islands are ours. It is Japan's future at stake," Kenichi Kojima, a local politician from Kanagawa, near Tokyo, told AFP before he boarded.

Parliamentarian Keiko Yamatani said most countries recognised Japan's sovereignty over the island chain, but added: "I think this kind of expedition will help raise awareness around the world."

The 20 vessels left the southwestern Japanese island of Ishigaki at 8:30 pm (1130 GMT), an AFP journalist on board one of the boats reported. Read More