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Japan Vows to Block Activists Heading to Disputed Island Chain

U.S. Says Disputed Islands Covered by Defense Treaty
An aerial picture from a P3C of Japan Maritime Self Defense Forces shows the Senkaku Islands, known as the Diaoyu Islands in Chinese and as Senkaku in Japanese, in the East China Sea. Source: The Yomiuri Shimbun via AP Images

Japan’s Coast Guard said it will prevent a group of Hong Kong activists from reaching disputed islands in the East China Sea, where a ship collision almost two years ago soured relations between China and Japan.

Seven activists, four crew members and two journalists are en route to islands known as Diaoyu in Chinese and Senkaku in Japanese, David Ko, a spokesman for the group, said by telephone today. They are expected to reach the area on Aug. 16, after stopping for supplies in Taiwan, he said.

“The Coast Guard patrols the area around the Senkaku islands 24 hours a day, 365 days a year,” Mariko Inoue, a spokeswoman for Japan’s Coast Guard, said by telephone today. “Of course, if a ship approaches from outside, we will prevent it from getting there.”

The group, known as the Action Committee for Defending the Diaoyu Islands, intends to assert Chinese sovereignty by fishing in the waters, Ko said. When Japan detained a Chinese captain for 17 days in 2010 after his vessel collided with two Japanese Coast Guard ships, China cut off ministerial talks.

Japan is also involved in a territorial spat with South Korea over separate islets known as Dokdo in Korea and Takeshima in Japanese. Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda may postpone a summit next month with South Korean President Lee Myung Bak after Lee’s visit to the islets on Aug. 10, the Nikkei newspaper reported.

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