Japanese activists met by Chinese maritime
Japanese activists trying to access a group of disputed islands are intercepted by Chinese maritime officials.PT0M0S 620 349
Japan's Prime Minister vowed to "expel by force" any Chinese landing on islands at the centre of a territorial row, after eight Chinese government vessels sailed into the disputed waters.
The latest clash over the islands came as nearly 170 Japanese lawmakers visited the controversial Yasukuni war shrine in central Tokyo on Tuesday, seen as a potent symbol of Japan's imperialist past, riling its neighbours China and South Korea.
Tokyo summoned the Chinese ambassador to Japan after the state-owned Chinese ships entered its territorial waters while Beijing called the shrine visit an "attempt to deny Japan's history of aggression".
Cat and mouse: a Chinese marine surveillance ship (top) tries to approach one of the Japanese fishing boats (bottom), with a Japan Coast Guard vessel between them. Photo: Reuters/Kyodo
The flotilla is the biggest to sail into the disputed waters in a single day since Tokyo nationalised part of the archipelago in September.
The islands are surrounded by rich fishing grounds and are believed to harbour vast natural resources below the seabed.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe vowed to "expel by force" any Chinese landing on the islands in the East China Sea, and promised "decisive action".
"We would never allow a landing," Mr Abe told parliament in response to questions from lawmakers, adding: "It would be natural for us to expel by force if [the Chinese] were to make a landing," he said.
Chinese ships have frequently sailed around the five Tokyo-controlled islands in recent months sparking diplomatic clashes.
The Chinese maritime surveillance ships entered the 12-nautical-mile zone off the islands, which China calls Diaoyu and Japan calls the Senkaku, about 8am on Monday, the Japan Coast Guard said in a statement.
"It is extremely deplorable and unacceptable that Chinese government ships are repeatedly entering Japanese territorial waters," Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said.
A group of Japanese nationalists said it had sent nine ships to the area around the islands, which are also claimed by Taiwan.
In a separate territorial row, relations between Tokyo and South Korea have also been strained by a dispute over a Seoul-controlled chain of islets in the Sea of Japan [East Sea].
Seoul on Monday shelved a planned trip by Foreign Minister Yun Byung-Se to Tokyo after two Japanese cabinet ministers visited the war shrine over the weekend.
The shrine is seen by Japan's neighbours as a symbol of its wartime aggression as it honours 2.5 million war dead, including 14 leading war criminals.
Beijing also protested about the visits.
"No matter in what capacity or form Japanese leaders visit Yasukuni Shrine, in essence it is an attempt to deny Japan's history of aggression," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters on Tuesday.
South Korea pressed Tokyo to "think hard" about the shrine visits.
"The Yasukuni shrine is a place that glorifies war and enshrines war criminals," foreign ministry spokesman Cho Tai-Young told reporters in Seoul.