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Japan/China Island Dispute Heats Up

Activists stir up debate over oil-rich rocks...

Seven Chinese activists landed on the main island of the disputed Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea on Wednesday morning, prompting Japan to lodge a diplomatic protest with China and to warn the activists to leave.

The seven people landed on Uotsurijima Island around 7:20 a.m. by small boats, which were spotted by the Japan Coast Guard in the nearby waters around 6:40 a.m., Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda told a press conference.

Fukuda said it was "regrettable that foreigners illegally landed on (Japanese) soil" and warned the activists to leave the island and the waters around it.

A Tokyo-based right-wing group whose members have landed on the islands every year, said its members will land on Uotsurijima Island on Thursday or Friday to counter the move.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, insisting the islands belong to Japan, said, "I hope the Chinese side deals with the issue properly."

Earlier Wednesday, the chairman of the China Federation for Defending the Diaoyu Islands, Tong Zeng, said the group's members have landed on the island "to do some scientific and environmental studies there."

"We will of course resist if Japan tries to clear our people from the island. This is a territory of China," Tong said by telephone from Beijing.

The contested isles, which are claimed by Japan, China and Taiwan, are known as Diaoyu in China and Tiaoyutai in Taiwan.

It was the fourth time Chinese activists set voyage for the islands in the past nine months. They failed in their last three attempts to land on the isles.

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