BBC News on April 23, 2012, reported Japan would respond with force if any attempt is made to land on disputed islands, PM Shinzo Abe has warned. Excerpts below:

His comments came as eight Chinese government ships sailed near East China Sea islands that both nations claim.

A flotilla of 10 fishing boats carrying Japanese activists was also reported to be in the area, as well as the Japanese coastguard.

The warning from the Japanese prime minister was the most explicit to China since Mr Abe took power in December, the BBC’s Rupert Wingfield-Hayes reported from Tokyo.

Asked in parliament what he would do if Chinese ships tried to land on the disputed islands, Mr Abe said they would be expelled by force.

There are more ships than I have ever seen before during one of these encounters – at least eight Chinese ships and an equal number of Japanese coastguard cutters.

Sailing alongside, dwarfed by the larger ships, are 10 fishing boats flying the Japanese flag and carrying right-wing Japanese nationalists from a group called Gambare Nippon.

It is the sort of situation that could quite easily get out of hand if, for example, the Japanese nationalists try to land on the islands, or if the Chinese ships try to board one of the Japanese fishing vessels.

China is now taking the position that its ships are there protecting “Chinese” territory, and consequently have the right to board any “foreign” vessels.

That may be why Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has decided to be more emphatic in his warning to China, making it explicit that if any of the Chinese vessels attempt to land on Japanese soil, they will be repelled with force.

He is laying down a clear line over which he hopes the Chinese know they would be unwise to cross.

The warning came as eight Chinese ships sailed around the islands – called Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China.

The Japanese coast guard said it was the highest number of Chinese boats in the area since Tokyo nationalised part of the island chain in September 2012.

Ten Japanese boats carrying around 80 activists arrived in the area early on the 23rd of April, Reuters news agency reported, monitored by Japanese Coast Guard vessels. Public broadcaster NHK said the boats were carrying “regional lawmakers and members of the foreign media”.

Japan’s top government spokesman said the “intrusion into territorial waters” was “extremely regrettable”. Japan also summoned the Chinese ambassador to protest, reports said.

The territorial row has been rumbling for years but was reignited last year when Japan bought three of the islands from their private Japanese owner.

China claims the island chain, which is controlled by Japan. Taiwan also claims the islands, which offer rich fishing grounds and lie in a strategically important area.


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