SENKAKU ISLANDS, Japan – Japan’s territorial disputes with its neighbors flared anew Sunday as a group of nationalist activists swam ashore and raised flags on an island also claimed by China.
Chinese took to the streets in protest, overturning Japanese-branded cars and smashing windows at some Japanese-owned businesses, as Beijing lodged a formal complaint, urging Tokyo to prevent frictions from escalating further.
Japanese authorities on Monday questioned the 10 Japanese, including five local assembly members, who made an unauthorized landing on Uotsuri, the largest in a disputed small archipelago known in Japan as the Senkaku Islands and in China as the Diaoyu Islands. The uninhabited islands surrounded by rich fishing grounds are controlled by Japan but also claimed by China and Taiwan.
Criminal charges were not expected.
Japan’s chief Cabinet spokesman Osamu Fujimura called the landing “regrettable” because it was done without government approval.
“The Senkakus are undoubtedly Japanese territory. It is to be expected that Japanese would take that to heart,” said Eiji Kosaka, an assemblyman from Tokyo’s Arakawa district.
China’s Foreign Ministry protested, summoning Japan’s ambassador to voice its complaints.
“The Japanese side should properly handle the current issue and avoid seriously damaging the overall situation of China-Japan relations,” ministry spokesman Qin Gang said in a statement.
Tokyo rejected a complaint by China’s ambassador to Japan, Cheng Yonghua, according to Japan’s Foreign Ministry.
Vice Foreign Minister Kenichiro Sasae told Cheng in a phone conversation that the protests in China were “regrettable” and urged Chinese authorities to ensure the safety of tens of thousands of Japanese citizens there, the ministry said.
China’s official Xinhua News Agency reported protests in cities across the country. Demonstrators burned Japanese flags, overturned or smashed Japanese cars and in some places broke windows of Japan-related businesses.