Japan deports pro-China island activists
AUG 18 -
Japan on Friday deported pro-Beijing activists who had sailed to a disputed island, as Tokyo moved swiftly to put an end to a potentially damaging row with China.
The deportations came just 48 hours after some of the 14 had become the first non- Japan ese to set foot on any part of the archipelago since 2004.
Half of the group were put aboard a commercial airliner in the Okinawan main city of Naha and arrived in Hong Kong late Friday.
They walked into the airport arrivals hall waving a Chinese flag and a banner reading "successful landing on Diaoyu Islands" and were greeted by a small crowd of cheering supporters.
The other half were taken back to their boat in the Japan ese port of Ishigaki.
An AFP journalist in Ishigaki said the seven arrived by police bus and were taken on board a coastguard boat as Japan ese nationalists shouted slogans nearby.
The activists told waiting journalists they were healthy and their boat was in good shape. They were expected to be escorted out of Japan ese territorial waters by the coastguard.
Earlier Friday the government's top spokesman had told reporters the prime minister had approved the deportations.
"The prime minister has received detailed reports on the illegal landing," said Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura. "He yesterday decided to approve of the related agencies' final conclusion to deport" the 14 activists.
Fujimura denied the decision had been taken on grounds of political expediency.
"This is not something the government has decided on emotionally. We firmly and strictly responded in accordance with our domestic law," he told a news conference.
Premier Yoshihiko Noda, who had been under pressure to act on an issue that is keenly felt in Beijing, and who has also been dealing with a territorial spat with South Korea, called a special cabinet meeting on Friday.
"It is really regrettable that they entered Japan 's territorial waters and illegally landed on Uotsurijima, despite our repeated warnings," he told his ministers, referring to the archipelago's main island.
Noda's move was criticised by Tokyo's nationalist governor Shintaro Ishihara, who has declared his intention to buy the islands from their private owner.
"It is a distinct criminal case," Ishihara told reporters in Tokyo. "We can't call Japan a real law-governed country if it sends them back as mere illegal aliens."
But activist Koo Sze-yiu added: "This time we didn't really succeed, we didn't really win. Diaoyu Islands are still occupied by the Japan ese."
The group set off from Hong Kong on Sunday. Five of them were arrested on one of the islands -- known as Senkaku in Japan ese and Diaoyu in Chinese -- on Wednesday, the 67th anniversary of Japan 's World War II surrender.
A commentary on Xinhua, China's official news agency, welcomed the release of the activists but added Japan should drop its plans of "nationalising" the islands.
"Tokyo has made a wise move by releasing all 14 Chinese captured Wednesday on and off the Diaoyu Islands, easing the anguish of millions of Chinese, who, along with the activists, are determined to safeguard China's sovereign rights," the commentary said.
But, it added: "The dispute over the islands will never be settled unless the Japan ese government drops its 'island-purchasing' farce."
China's foreign ministry said in a statement earlier Friday Beijing had been pushing for the immediate release of the detainees.
The rapid move to deport the group, which had been widely expected, stands in sharp contrast to the diplomatic calamity of 2010 when Japan held a Chinese trawlerman for two weeks after he rammed coastguard vessels.
Japan was widely criticised as having caved in to Chinese pressure and being forced into releasing the man after Beijing halted high level contacts and stymied trade.
In 2004, when a group of Chinese activists landed on one of the disputed islands, the then prime minister Junichiro Koizumi ordered their expulsion after two days.
The renewed dispute over the islands comes as Japan 's relations with South Korea also become increasingly frayed after President Lee Myung-Bak last week visited islets controlled by Seoul but claimed by Tokyo.
Posted on: 2012-08-18 11:32