Early yesterday morning, about 150 Japanese nationalists set sail for the disputed Senkaku island chain that has caused such friction between China and Japan over the past few days. The Straits Times:
The 20 vessels left the south-western Japanese island of Ishigaki at 8.30pm (7.30pm Singapore time), an AFP journalist on board one of the boats reported, despite anger from Beijing.
The fleet, carrying around 150 people, was expected to arrive at the archipelago, known as Senkaku in Japan and as Diaoyu in China, around sunrise (5.30am on Sunday, Singapore time).
Having landed, the activists planted Japanese flags on the disputed islands and set off an all-too-predictable diplomatic row. The Washington Post reports:
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.
There’s high tension in Asian waters, and it’s getting worse. Some officials in the concerned countries have condemned nationalist protests and island mongering, but their anxiety has been muted and drowned out by more vocal and angrier parties. That’s not a good sign.
For those keeping track of the intrigue, here’s our helpful map (click for detail):