But on Aug. 15, Japan arrested 14 activists and journalists from China, Hong Kong, and Macau who landed on the Senkaku Islands, which Japan claims. China and Taiwan also claim the East China Sea islets, which sit near fisheries and undersea oil tracts. The uninhabited islets are called the Diaoyu Islands in China and the Tiaoyutai in Taiwan.
Japan controls the islands 138 miles east of Taiwan and deported the activists on Aug. 17. Yesterday about 150 Japanese legislators and activists on 21 boats approached the islets in an apparent countermove against China.
Related demonstrations in cities around China raised reminders of much larger protests in 2005 over a Sino-Japanese series of flaps related to territory and World War II memories. News reports say that over the weekend some protesters destroyed Japanese-themed shops and Japanese made cars.
Beijing, which wants to be seen at home as a rising superpower, used the events of the past week to bash Japan for political gain at home, analysts say.
Japan occupied China from 1937 to 1945. Modern Sino-Japanese territorial disputes include oil fields in the East China Sea as well as the Senkaku Islands. Those issues have fanned mass distrust of Japan among the Chinese population.
Chinese leaders must spare subtlety to prove their foreign policy mettle ahead of the Communist Party’s 18th National Congress later this year, says Lin Chong-pin, strategic studies professor with Tamkang University in Taiwan. The Congress will decide who takes the nation’s top leadership jobs.