Japan’s PM Shinzo Abe has warned China that his country will respond with force if any attempt is made to land on disputed island.
The Japanese prime minister’s comments came as eight Chinese government ships sailed near East China Sea islands that both nations claim.
A flotilla of 10 fishing boats carrying Japanese activists was also reported to be in the area, as well as the Japanese coastguard.
Shinzo Abe was speaking in parliament hours after dozens of lawmakers visited a controversial war-linked shrine.
A total of 168 lawmakers paid their respects at the Yasukuni Shrine, which commemorates Japan’s war dead, including war criminals, in a move likely to anger regional neighbors who say the shrine is a reminder of Japan’s military past.
The warning from the Japanese prime minister was the most explicit to China since Shinzo Abe took power in December.
Asked in parliament what he would do if Chinese ships tried to land on the disputed islands, Shinzo Abe said they would be expelled by force.
Japan’s PM Shinzo Abe has warned China that his country will respond with force if any attempt is made to land on disputed island
“Since it has become the Abe government, we have made sure that if there is an instance where there is an intrusion into our territory or it seems that there could be landing on the islands then we will deal will it strongly,” he said.
The warning came as eight Chinese ships sailed around the islands – called Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China.
The Japanese coast guard said it was the highest number of Chinese boats in the area since Tokyo nationalized part of the island chain in September 2012.
China said its ships had been monitoring Japanese vessels. The State Oceanic Administration issued a statement saying three of its ships had “found” several Japanese ships around the islands and “immediately ordered another five ships in the East China Sea to meet the three ships”.
Ten Japanese boats carrying around 80 activists arrived in the area early on Tuesday, Reuters news agency reported, monitored by Japanese Coast Guard vessels. Public broadcaster NHK said the boats were carrying “regional lawmakers and members of the foreign media”.
Japan’s top government spokesman said the “intrusion into territorial waters” was “extremely regrettable”. Japan also summoned the Chinese ambassador to protest, reports said.
The territorial row has been rumbling for years but was reignited last year when Japan bought three of the islands from their private Japanese owner.
China claims the island chain, which is controlled by Japan. Taiwan also claims the islands, which offer rich fishing grounds and lie in a strategically important area.
The dispute has led to serious diplomatic tension between China and Japan, most recently in January when Japan said a Chinese frigate locked weapons-controlling radar on one of its navy ships near the islands – something China disputes.
The visit to the Yasukuni Shrine on Tuesday by lawmakers marking the spring festival is also likely to hit ties between Beijing and Tokyo.
Two cabinet ministers, including Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso, visited the shrine on Sunday. PM Shinzo Abe did not visit but made a ritual offering.
South Korea subsequently cancelled a proposed visit by its foreign minister, while China lodged “solemn representations” in response to the ministers’ visit.
“Only when Japan faces up to its aggressive past can it embrace the future and develop friendly relations with its Asian neighbors,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on Monday.
But Japanese lawmaker Hidehisa Otsujji said it was “natural” for “lawmakers to worship at a shrine for people who died for the nation”.
“Every nation does this. I don’t understand why we get a backlash,” he said.
Natsuo Yamaguchi, an envoy for Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, has met China’s leader Xi Jinping in Beijing, amid a growing territorial dispute.
Natsuo Yamaguchi, head of the junior party in Japan’s ruling coalition, handed Xi Jinping a letter from Shinzo Abe – its contents have not been disclosed.
The envoy said the two had agreed it was important to maintain a dialogue.
Xi Jinping urged Japan to “work hard with China” to resolve the issue, a Chinese foreign ministry statement said.
As head of the New Komeito party, Natsuo Yamaguchi is the most senior politician to visit China since ties worsened last year.
Both countries claim sovereignty over a chain of islands in the East China Sea, called Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in Chinese.
The islands, which are controlled by Japan, lie south of Okinawa and north of Taiwan.
After his meeting, Natsuo Yamaguchi told reporters that Japan “wishes to pursue ties with China while looking at the big picture”.
“It is important that both sides make efforts through political dialogue so that a summit meeting between Japanese and Chinese leaders can take place – this is the suggestion that I made,” he said.
“In response, Xi Jinping said there was a need for high-level dialogue and that he would consider it seriously.”
Natsuo Yamaguchi, an envoy for Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, has met China’s leader Xi Jinping in Beijing, amid a growing territorial dispute
Xi Jinping, meanwhile, speaking before the talks, said the visit came “at a period in which Sino-Japanese relations face a special situation” and that China attached “great importance” to it.
“The Japanese side ought to face up to history and facts, take practical steps and work hard with China to find an effective way to appropriately resolve and manage the issue via dialogue and consultations,” a foreign ministry statement later quoted him as saying.
The dispute over ownership of the islands has been rumbling for years, but it reignited in 2012 when the Japanese government purchased three of the islands from their private Japanese owner.
The move triggered diplomatic protests from Beijing and Taipei, and sparked small public protests in China, affecting some Japanese businesses operating in the country.
Chinese government ships have since sailed many times through what Japan says are its territorial waters around the islands. Late last year, a Chinese government plane also flew over the islands in what Japan called a violation of its airspace.
In response, Tokyo has moved to increase military spending for the first time in a decade and Shinzo Abe recently embarked on a diplomatic offensive in South East Asia, where several nations are also embroiled in maritime disputes with China.
The tensions between the two Asian giants have raised concern, with the US calling for calm and restraint.
Japan’s coast guard has detained a Chinese fishing boat for allegedly fishing inside Japanese waters, Chinese officials say.
The boat was seized on Saturday near Japan’s Kagoshima Prefecture, China’s Xinhua news agency reported, citing the Chinese consulate in Fukuoka, Japan.
The captain had admitted entering Japanese waters, Xinhua said.
Japan’s coast guard has detained a Chinese fishing boat for allegedly fishing inside Japanese waters
The incident comes months after anti-Japanese protests in Chinese cities over disputed islands near Taiwan.
The captain and two crew members have been taken to Kagoshima for questioning while six other sailors remained on board the boat, which comes from Fujian province in south-east China, Xinhua said.
A Chinese consulate official has been sent to Kagoshima to visit the crew members, the report added.
Relations between Japan and China have been strained over the disputed islands, known as the Diaoyu in Chinese and Senkaku in Japanese.
Japan controls the islands, which are also claimed by Taiwan. Close to strategically important shipping lanes, the waters around the islands also offer rich fishing grounds and are thought to contain oil deposits.
Dozens of Taiwanese boats sailed to disputed East China Sea islands in a brief protest, as top Japanese and Chinese diplomats met in Beijing to ease tensions.
The islands, called Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, are controlled by Japan but claimed by China and Taiwan.
Tension in the region has been high since Japan’s purchase of the islands from their private Japanese owner.
Taiwanese vessels, including coastguard ships, have now left the area.
Meanwhile Japanese Vice-Foreign Minister Chikao Kawai, who is in Beijing for a two-day visit, is meeting Chinese counterpart Zhang Zhijun, amid a row that has seen anti-Japanese protests in several Chinese cities.
Dozens of Taiwanese boats sailed to disputed East China Sea islands in a brief protest
Chinese surveillance and fishing boats have also been sailing in and out of waters around the islands in recent days, following the Japanese government’s announcement that it had bought the islands.
The row over ownership of the islands has been rumbling for years and has flared sporadically.
A spokesman from Taiwan’s Coast Guard Administration said that 58 fishing vessels arrived in the disputed waters at around 05:00 a.m. local time after setting off from a northern Taiwanese port on Monday afternoon.
The fishing boats were accompanied by several Taiwanese coast guard vessels.
Japan’s coast guard said warnings were issued to the boats and television footage showed water being sprayed towards the Taiwanese ships.
The flotilla turned back towards Taiwan after being in the area for a few hours, reports said.
The move to sail to the disputed area, activists and fishermen said, was to protect fishing rights and access to traditional fishing grounds.
“Fishing rights are more important than sovereignty, but fishing rights also means sovereignty [in this case],” activist Chen Chunsheng, who is organizing the flotilla, told reporters on Monday.
”So for this day on which we negotiate fishing rights, we are willing to be the backing of the government.”
Both China and Taiwan say they have inherited historic sovereignty over the islands.
The Japanese government moved to buy the islands in response to a potentially much more provocative plan by right-wing Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara to buy and develop them using public donations.
The row comes at a time when both China and Japan are facing political changes domestically, making it difficult for either side to be seen as backing down.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s government – already hit by poor figures in opinion polls – is likely to face an election in coming months. China is due to hold a party congress in weeks that will see major changes in the top echelons of leadership.
Arriving in Beijing on Monday, Japan’s envoy Chikao Kawai stressed the importance of bilateral ties.
“Because of the current difficult situation, I plan to explain what Japan is now considering to Zhang Zhijun and listen to what China is considering, for the importance of the relationship between both countries,” he said.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Beijing would set out its position: “China will urge Japan to correct their mistakes and make efforts in improving ties,” he said.
A ceremony to mark 40 years of ties with Japan – due on Thursday – has been put off.
Last week, several major Japanese companies briefly suspended operations in China after attacks on shops and car dealerships.
This led to fears over a larger impact on trade between China and Japan, which is worth about $345 billion.
Most Japanese companies have resumed their operations in China. But China’s customs officials are to step up inspection of Japanese air cargo arriving at Beijing airport, said a Kyodo news report citing unnamed Japanese businesses sources.
Japan will seek compensation from China for damages to its diplomatic missions there during protests over disputed islands, Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura has said.
Osamu Fujimura told reporters in Tokyo that “this was an issue between the governments”.
It comes as China expressed regret over protesters attacking the US ambassador’s car in Beijing on Tuesday.
Chinese dissident and artist Ai Weiwei filmed the attack, a copy of which was uploaded on YouTube.
Japan will seek compensation from China for damages to its diplomatic missions there during protests over disputed islands
Tensions have been high between Japan and China after Japan purchased three of the disputed islands, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, from a private owner.
Both Japan and China, as well as Taiwan, claim the uninhabited but resource-rich islands that are controlled by Japan.
Over the last week anti-Japanese protests in China have forced Japanese businesses to close or scale down operations.
In some cities on Tuesday, Japanese shops were attacked and vandalized on the anniversary of an incident in 1931 which led to Japan’s invasion of north-east China. The protests appeared to have diminished on Wednesday.
“Regarding damage to our embassies and consulates, we plan to demand compensation [from China] as it is an issue between the governments,” Osamu Fujimura is quoted as saying in Tokyo.
He added that any damage to Japanese property in China should be handled under local laws.
Osamu Fujimura also said that the Japanese prime minister is planning to send a special envoy to China as part of efforts “to resolve the issue cool-headedly through various diplomatic routes”.
When asked whether China would pay for damages related to the protests, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said that relevant cases would be handled appropriately, state-run news agency Xinhua reports.
Meanwhile, China has expressed regret over the incident involving protesters that attacked US Ambassador Gary Locke’s car in Beijing on Tuesday, the US State Department said.
Its spokeswoman, Victoria Nuland, said that the US had registered its concern with China over the incident in Washington and Beijing.
Protesters chanted anti-American slogans and said that the disputed islands were part of Chinese territory as they tried to prevent the car from entering the embassy.
Ai Weiwei said he was able to shoot video footage of the attack from a friend’s place nearby.
Hong Lei said that the incident was an “individual case”, and that they were investigating it.
The US, which is an ally of Japan, has said that it would remain neutral on the islands dispute.
Japanese electronics maker Panasonic has suspended some of its operations in China after anti-Japan protesters attacked two of its factories.
Panasonic said its factory in Qingdao will remain shut until 18 September.
According to media reports, Canon has also suspended operations at three of its Chinese factories.
The attacks are a part of wider protests that have spread across China and hurt other firms, including Toyota.
They started after Japan said it had agreed a deal to buy a chain of disputed islands in East China Sea from their private Japanese owner.
Panasonic has suspended some of its operations in China after anti-Japan protesters attacked two of its factories
China has maintained its sovereignty over the islands which are also claimed by Taiwan.
A spokesperson for Panasonic said the firm would continue to monitor the situation over the next two days.
The disputed islands, known as Diaoyu in China and Senkaku in Japan, are uninhabited but resource-rich.
They have been a contentious issue between the two countries, and were the focus of a major diplomatic row between them in 2010.
The dispute flared up again over the weekend after Tokyo said it had agreed to purchase them, leading to thousands of protesters taking to the streets in various parts of China.
The demonstrations saw protesters burning Japanese flags and targeting Japanese-made cars.
There have been reports of a Toyota dealership in China being damaged during the demonstrations.
On Monday, the Bloomberg news agency reported that Canon had also suspended operations in three of its factories in China until 18 September.
Analysts said the dispute had started to affect Japanese firms operating in China.
“We are definitely seeing that Japanese companies are being directly affected by the protests,” said Shaun Rein of China Market Research Group.
The attacks on some Japanese businesses have raised fears about the impact of the protests on Japanese investment in China.
Analysts said that China, which was known for being a low-cost manufacturing base, has seen a steady rise in labor costs in recent times, negating a big advantage it had on other countries in the region.
They said that the protests could result in some Japanese firms starting to look beyond China for further expansion.
“They might want to consider expanding manufacturing operations in Thailand or in other nations that are more welcoming towards Japanese investment,” said Shaun Rein.
He warned that such moves might have an impact on China’s economic growth and also on the overall trade ties between Asia’s two biggest economies.
“The trade relations are going to be damaged by the continuing protests, for sure.”
Japan-China disputed islands
• The archipelago consists of five islands and three reefs
• Japan, China and Taiwan claim them; they are controlled by Japan and form part of Okinawa prefecture
• The Japanese government signed a deal in September 2012 to purchase three islands from Japanese businessman Kunioki Kurihara, who used to rent them out to the Japanese state
Japan’s government has reached a deal to buy disputed islands in the East China Sea from their private owner, local media reports.
The government will pay 2.05 billion yen ($26 million) to buy islands known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China.
There was no confirmation from officials, but the reports were carried by major Japanese media outlets, citing government sources.
The outspoken Tokyo governor had also been seeking to buy the islands.
The Japanese government will pay 2.05 bn yen ($26 million) to buy islands known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China
Shintaro Ishihara had been collecting public donations for the purchase by the Tokyo metropolitan government, amid high tensions with China over the island chain.
At a regular press conference, Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said the government and owner were in talks but would not comment on details of the discussion.
“We are negotiating with the owner while we try to grasp where the situation stands between [the central government] and the Tokyo metropolitan government,” he said.
An announcement would be made “when we reach a result after completing the process”, he said.
Kyodo news agency, citing government sources, said the agreement to buy three of the five main islands was reached with the owner on Monday.
A formal purchase contract would likely be exchanged by the end of this month, it said.
The cabinet will approve the deal in the middle of this month, both the Asahi and Yomiuri newspapers said.
The Japanese government says it has no plans to build on the islands, unlike Shintaro Ishihara who had suggested he could build a dock.
The purchase is likely to raise tensions with China, but less so than were Shintaro Ishihara to buy them.
Japan controls the islands, which lie south of Okinawa and north of Taiwan, but China also claims them, as does Taiwan.
Earlier this month, a group of Hong Kong activists landed on one of the islands amid the rumbling row. Japanese nationalists also subsequently visited, sparking protests in several Chinese cities.
On Tuesday, two men were held in Beijing for ripping the flag off the Japanese ambassador’s car, in an apparent protest over the islands.
The disputed islands sit in key shipping lanes and are thought to lie close to gas deposits.
On Wednesday an editorial in China’s Communist Party mouthpiece the People’s Daily accused Japan of acting in a two-faced manner over the islands.
“It will be difficult to improve the strained China-Japan relations if the Japanese government continues to adopt the two-faced approach of expressing goodwill on the one hand and allowing right-wing forces to kidnap the government and public opinion on the other hand,” it said.