Tensions rise in East China Sea over island sale
Japanese coastguard warned by Chinese ships to leave disputed area 'or bear the consequences'
Tensions between Asia's two biggest economies reached their highest level in years yesterday when China sent six surveillance ships into the waters around islands at the centre of its territorial dispute with Japan.
The ships' crews exchanged warnings with Japanese coastguard ships as they briefly entered the area around the Diaoyu islands, as they are known in China, which are situated in the East China Sea.
Relations between China and Japan have long been tense, but Tokyo's recent decision to buy the uninhabited islands, known in Japan as the Senkakus, from a private owner has brought anger to the boil in China.
China's state broadcaster CCTV repeatedly played footage of a Chinese marine surveillance officer aboard one of the ships radioing the Japanese vessels, demanding they leave.
"The actions of your ships violate China's sovereignty and rights. Any unilateral act from your side regarding the Diaoyu islands and its affiliated islands is illegal and invalid. Please stop any infringing acts. Otherwise, your side will bear the consequences caused by your actions," the officer said.
"It is deplorable that the invasion of the territorial waters happened and we strongly request that the Chinese authorities leave our territory," Japan's chief cabinet secretary Osamu Fujimura told reporters yesterday.
While the islands are surrounded by rich fishing grounds, they also have strategic importance. The row is also seen as a clash between China's growing regional clout in the face of what it sees as Japanese nationalism and aggression.
China believes the islands were illegally invaded and occupied by the Japanese during the Second World War, and were returned to China when Japan was defeated. Diplomats in Beijing say neither side wants the situation to escalate, but admitted it might be difficult to keep things calm.
Japan has elections coming up, and China is facing a tense change of leadership due next month, both of which make finding a solution that plays to their respective domestic audiences problematic.
Next week is also the anniversary of the Mukden Incident in 1931, when Japan seized Manchuria in northeast China, triggering 14 years of occupation by China. The date is known as 9.18 in China and is likely to see major protests.
Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Le Yucheng said Japan's actions were like stealing a neighbour's bicycle and said the decision to send the ships to the islands was a "powerful measure" to defend China's sovereignty.
Liam Neeson's Downton dreams
Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage
- 1 Scottish independence results live: Reunited kingdom - Scotland gives a clear 'No' in historic referendum
- 2 Scottish referendum results: David Cameron set to unveil major devolution of powers to England
- 3 iOS 8 is full of shiny new features - but it's terrible news for app developers
- 4 Scottish independence: Tory revolt against 'devo max' grows as Rail Minister Claire Perry joins
- 5 Hitler’s former food taster reveals the horrors of the Wolf’s Lair
Scottish independence results live: Reunited kingdom - Scotland gives a clear 'No' in historic referendum
Scottish referendum results: David Cameron set to unveil major devolution of powers to England
Iranian blogger found guilty of insulting Prophet Mohammad on Facebook sentenced to death
Scottish independence: YouGov final prediction puts No campaign 8 points ahead - but Yes team remains optimistic
Scottish independence: Tory revolt against 'devo max' grows as Rail Minister Claire Perry joins
Daniele Watts: Django Unchained actress detained by Los Angeles police after being mistaken for a prostitute
Scottish independence referendum: A nation divided against itself
Scottish independence: David Cameron is becoming the 'George Bush of Britain'
Russia freezes Ukraine into submission: Kiev admits country doesn't have enough fuel for winter
Scottish independence: The Queen breaks silence on referendum debate – as think tank warns of £14bn black hole if Scotland votes Yes
Portuguese academic says British are 'filthy, violent and drunk'
£90 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Leicester: Are you a Teacher looking fo...
Negotiable: Randstad Education Leicester: Are you a Newly Qualified Teacher lo...
£90 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Leicester: Part Time Primary TeacherOur...
£7 - £8 per hour: Randstad Education Cheshire: The Job:School Science Technici...