BEIJING, Jan. 3 (UPI) -- Beijing has protested the landing of four Japanese activists on islands in the East China Sea China claims as its own.
The four members of the Ishigaki Municipal Assembly in Okinawa left Ishigaki in a fishing boat at 10:40 p.m. Monday and went ashore just before 10 a.m. Tuesday on one of the islands where Japan also has staked a claim in conflict with Taiwan and the People's Republic of China, The Japan Times reported.
Japan refers to the disputed territory as the Senkaku Islands, while Taiwan and China call them the Diaoyu Islands.
China was quick to launch a formal protest, the official Chinese news agency Xinhua reported.
"I would like to reiterate that China has indisputable sovereignty over the Diaoyu Islands, which have been an inherent part of China since ancient times," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said.
Chinese activists attempted to launch a fishing vessel from Hong Kong to the islands allegedly to help assert national authority. As they approached the island Chinese marine police turned them away and ordered them back to Hong Kong, The Standard of Hong Kong reported in its Wednesday edition.
A spokesman for the Chinese activists, Chan Miu-tak of the Chinese Federation for Defending the Diaoyu Islands, argued with authorities, telling them not to intervene since they were in a fishing vessel and should be free to leave Hong Kong if they wished.
The Marine Department said because their boat was licensed as a fishing vessel, it could only be used for fishing and fishing-related activities, The Standard said.