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Last Updated: Friday, 26 March, 2004, 10:38 GMT
Japan to deport Chinese activists
Demonstrator in Beijing
Protesters have targeted the Japanese embassy for the third day
Japan has said it will immediately deport without charge seven Chinese activists who landed on the disputed Senkaku Islands.

An official said that the men would be expelled "as soon as possible."

The seven were detained on the islands for illegally entering Japanese territory, but China also claims them, calling then the Diaoyu Islands.

The Chinese government has allowed a third day of protests in Beijing against the detentions.

About 50 protesters sang patriotic songs in front of the Japanese embassy a day after China's foreign ministry demanded the unconditional return of the detainees.

The AFP news agency quoted a Japanese official as saying the Chinese men were being moved to the immigration office in order to be sent back.

Claims

The incident has threatened to sour relations between China and Japan, with both countries issuing statements claiming their sovereignty over the territory.

"My view is that the island belongs to Japan, and we need to deal with this issue in a cool-headed manner," Japan's Finance Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki said on Friday.

"The Diaoyu Islands are without a doubt China's territory," said China's State Councillor Tang Jiaxuan, the day before.

The Chinese activists evaded Japanese Coast Guard vessels to land on one of the islands early on Wednesday.

Japan sent police by helicopter to remove them and take them to the southern Japanese island of Okinawa which administers the Senkaku Islands.

China and Taiwan both renewed their claim to the Senkaku Islands in the 1970s after oil deposits were found nearby.

They were declared Japanese territory in 1895.

In recent years a number of expeditions to the islands have been launched by activists claiming them as Chinese territory.


WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Jonathan Head
"The islands would matter little but for the possibility of oil"



SEE ALSO:
Chinese activists reach Senkaku
24 Mar 04  |  Asia-Pacific
Japan's island claim ignites row
23 Jun 03  |  Asia-Pacific
China protests Japan islands lease
05 Jan 03  |  Asia-Pacific
Row over Japan's islands claim
03 Jan 03  |  Asia-Pacific
Island protest boat attacked
24 Jun 98  |  Asia-Pacific


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