The group of disputed islands known as Senkaku in Japan and
Diaoyu in China. Reuters file photo
Five boats carrying about 20 members of a Japanese
nationalist group have sailed in waters near tiny islands in
the East China Sea at the centre of a dispute between Japan and
China, a move that risks escalating tensions between the two
Members of the Ganbare Nippon ("Stand Firm, Japan") group
said on Sunday (local time) they did not plan to land on the
uninhabited islands, which are known as the Senkaku in Japan
and Diaoyu in China, but wanted to send a message to China.
"We want to show these islands are under Japanese control,"
Satoru Mizushima, the right-wing film maker who leads Ganbare
Nippon, told activists before departure late Saturday from a
port in Okinawa. "We won't be doing anything extreme but we
need to show the Chinese what we're made of."
The island are located near rich fishing grounds and
potentially huge oil and gas reserves.
Chinese and Japanese planes and patrol vessels have been
playing cat-and-mouse near the islands, raising concerns that
an unintended incident could escalate into a military clash.
The trip by the right-wing Japanese group comes days after
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sent an offering to
Tokyo's Yasukuni Shrine for war dead - seen by critics as a
symbol of Japan's past militarism - on the anniversary of
Japan's World War Two defeat.
Ganbare Nippon is not officially affiliated with any
political party but its members have organized rallies to
support Abe and visited Yasukuni en masse on Thursday,
carrying Japanese flags and banners.
Last week, Chinese patrol boats entered Japanese territorial
waters and stayed there for more than 24 hours, the longest
since surveillance around the islands was increased after
Japan's government purchased several of them from a private
owner last September, triggering massive protests in China.