Monday, August 13, 2012

Pro-China activists depart for disputed islands

A group of pro-China activists from Hong Kong and Macau set sail Sunday for a chain of East China Sea islands at the center of a simmering territorial dispute between Tokyo and Beijing.

The group of 14 activists left for the disputed islands -- known as Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in Chinese -- on a Chinese-flagged fishing boat from Hong Kong.

The activists, who belong to a group called the Action Committee for Defending the Diaoyu Islands, will be joined at sea by two other vessels on Tuesday -- from Taiwan and Xiamen city in southern China.

"We are protesting Japanese lawmakers' plan to land on the islands on August 19," said Chan Miu-tak, the group's chairman.

"We want to reach the islands before the Japanese lawmakers and place the Chinese flag there to show our determination to safeguard China's sovereignty over the islands," he told AFP.

A group of lawmakers from Japan have said they plan to visit the disputed islands next weekend.

Chan said the vessels are expected to reach the disputed islands on Wednesday if they are not turned back by authorities.

The pro-China group has made repeated attempts to reach the islands, but apart from one successful foray in 1996 they have been blocked by Japanese patrol vessels.

China and Japan have a lengthy dispute over the uninhabited but strategically coveted island chain, which is also claimed by Taiwan.

The move came after South Korea's President Lee Myung-Bak paid a surprise visit on Friday to islands at the center of a decades-old territorial row with Japan, which recalled its ambassador from Seoul in protest.-Interaksyon (August 12, 2012 8:23PM)

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