China sends patrol ships to islands held by Japan

By Malcolm Foster

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, Sept. 11 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

About a dozen protesters gathered outside the Japanese Embassy in Beijing, chanting, "Japan, get out of China." A car drove slowly toward the embassy's well-guarded gate but did not make a serious attempt to ram it and was stopped by uniformed and plainclothes police.

Taiwan's Foreign Ministry also lodged a strong protest to Japan. In a statement it called the island purchase an "extremely unfriendly move" that "not only harms the longtime cooperation between Taiwan and Japan but will also aggravate regional tensions in East Asia."

Top Japanese government officials maintain that the flare-up hasn't affected official ties with China, although Deputy Prime Minister Katsuya Okada acknowledged that emotions on both sides were being fanned by activists.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda met only briefly with Chinese President Hu Jintao on the sidelines of this past weekend's Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Vladivostok, Russia, and Japanese news reports said Noda emphasized the importance of dealing with the island dispute from a broad perspective. Noda also said that "China's growth is a chance for the world and we would like to develop it in a strategic manner."

China also has announced coordinates marking out the waters off the Diaoyu Islands that it considers its territory, apparently for the first time after doing so earlier for the mainland and other islands.

The coordinates are another step, along with recent announcements of China's intention to use law enforcement vessels, to defend its sovereignty claim, said Stephanie Kleine-Ahlbrandt, northeast Asia project director for the International Crisis Group.

"It's primarily about being seen as taking action to pave the way for further actions to assert China's sovereignty," she said.

In Tokyo, Gov. Ishihara renewed his calls for the islands to be developed for future use by fishermen.

"It appears that the matter is decided," he told reporters. "They say they won't do anything, but China's leaders are still criticizing the plan."

Ishihara said he was freezing the 1.4 billion yen ($18 million) donated toward his purchase plan for the islands and would only release the funds to the government once it was clear whether a port or other facilities would be built.

He also suggested that Japan unite with the Philippines and Vietnam, which have disputes with China in the South China Sea.

"We shouldn't see this as an issue that only concerns Japan," he said.

Foster reported from Tokyo. Associated Press writer Eric Talmadge in Tokyo contributed to this report.

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