The Diaoyu Islands are a group of uninhabited islands located roughly due east of mainland China, northeast of Taiwan, west of Okinawa Island, and north of the southwestern end of the Ryukyu Islands. They are currently controlled by Japan, which calls them Senkaku Islands. Both China and Taiwan claim sovereignty over the islands.
Japanese visit to Diaoyu Islands for survey prompts China condemnation
Japanese team conduct a study around Diaoyu Islands in preparation for the city of Tokyo's planned purchase, prompting Chinese condemnation
Agence France-Presse in Tokyo and Mimi Lau
A team of Japanese surveyors and politicians yesterday sailed to the disputed Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea, which the nationalistic governor of Tokyo is planning to buy amid a widening diplomatic row with China.
Carrying 25 marine and surveying experts as well as Tokyo officials, the boat arrived in the waters near the islands, which in Japan are called the Senkakus, at 5am. They circled the five uninhabited islands without landing in a nine-hour study trip. The Japanese government did not grant permission for the officials to land on the islands.
A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said that China "has once again lodged a serious protest to the Japanese side" over the surveying mission.
"The Chinese side reiterated that any … actions taken by the Japanese side are illegal and invalid and can never change the fact that the Diaoyu Islands and adjacent islands are part of China's territory," the spokesman said.
A China Central Television broadcast also branded the surveying illegal, with the news dominating headlines on major online portals.
Tokyo officials onboard said the surveying was crucial and would include measuring the water depth in order to build a dock on the islands.
"It is an undeniable fact that the islands are Japanese territory, so our task is to see how we can best maintain that," Yoshihiko Yamada, a special adviser to the city's team, said aboard the boat.
Seiichiro Sakamaki, who was leading the Tokyo team for the survey, stressed that the city was going to buy the islands.
"The basic point is that those who are about to buy property need to look at it," he said.
The boat left late on Saturday from Okinawa in southwestern Japan and headed back yesterday afternoon just before 4pm.
Zhou Yongsheng , a Japanese-affairs expert at China Foreign Affairs University, said the surveying was a provocative act which is expected to be met with anti-Japan sentiment.
Chinese internet users urged China to use force to gain control over the islands.
"Where are our military troops when Japanese experts are illegally surveying our islands?" asked one online user called "greedy bear".
Testy Sino-Japanese relations took a turn for the worse last month when pro-Beijing activists landed on one of the islands. They were arrested by Japanese authorities and deported. About a dozen Japanese nationalists raised their country's flag on an island days later, prompting protests in cities across China.