China praises 'wise' Japan move in islands dispute

China praises 'wise' Japan move in islands dispute

BBC News

18 August 2012

China has praised Japan's "wise" decision to free a group of activists who sailed to a disputed island chain, in a state media commentary.

The article on Xinhua news agency's website said the speedy action had averted the deterioration in relations.

The activists sailed to the islands, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, from Hong Kong in a protest aimed at promoting Chinese sovereignty.

Some were deported, while others agreed to sail back.

The islands are the subject of a long-running sovereignty dispute.

China claims the uninhabited chain has been a part of its territory since ancient times.

But Japan says it took control of the archipelago in the late 1890s after making sure they were uninhabited.

Although Xinhua's commentary praised Japan for freeing the activists so quickly, it also added some strident criticism.

"[Japan's] disrespect and insulting moves towards neighbouring nations have brewed disaster, and normalisation of China-Japan relations 40 years ago only took place after its post-war reflection," the commentary said.

"Now the country obviously needs to return to that reflection and reconsider how it can get along with Asian countries."

Some of the activists arrived back in Hong Kong to a hero's welcome, and immediately promised to return to the islands.

They were arrested when five of the landed on the islands.

The last time any non-Japanese visited the chain was in 2004 when another group of Chinese activists tried a similar stunt.

They were also quickly deported.

The latest incident caused anger on both sides.

The two countries lodged formal protests with each other, while the US urged the two nations to resolve the row peacefully.

The islands are close to important shipping lanes, offer rich fishing grounds and are thought to contain oil deposits.

Rows over the disputed islands have caused Sino-Japanese ties to freeze in the past.

In September 2010, relations plummeted after the arrest of a Chinese trawler captain near the islands.

The captain was accused of ramming two Japanese patrol vessels in the area, but Japan eventually dropped the charges against him.