Activists up ante in China, Japan isle dispute
TOKYO (AP) - When Tokyo's nationalist governor suggested buying uninhabited islands at the centre of a long-simmering dispute with China, Beijing immediately denounced him and even Japan's government played down the plan, fearing an international firestorm.
Now activists on both sides have put the islands front-and-centre in one of the biggest territorial flare-ups between the two Asian giants in years, a collision of the persistent animosities over Japan's imperialist past and the new fears of China's rising economic and military clout.
An unauthorised landing by Japanese activists on a tiny island in what the Japanese call the Senkaku chain - and the Chinese call the Diaoyu - has sparked an outpouring of anger and anti-Japanese protests across China and fuelled calls for aggressive government action that some fear could lead to a dangerous escalation of tensions.
Japanese authorities on Monday questioned the 10 Japanese, including Tokyo city assembly members, who swam ashore on the disputed island the day before. News of the landing prompted thousands of Chinese to hold demonstrations in 10 cities, where protesters sang the Chinese national anthem or carried banners demanding Japan give up the islands.