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China, Japan boats engage in cat-and-mouse chase near disputed Islands

By
Elizabeth Shim
Uotsuri Island, one of the Senkaku or Diaoyutai Islands in the East China, is claimed by both China and Japan. File Photo by Hiroya Shimoji/EPA
Uotsuri Island, one of the Senkaku or Diaoyutai Islands in the East China, is claimed by both China and Japan. File Photo by Hiroya Shimoji/EPA

May 30 (UPI) -- A Chinese coast guard ship chased away a Japanese fishing vessel carrying a Japanese politician near the disputed Senkaku or Diaoyutai Islands in the East China Sea, according to a Japanese news service.

Yaeyama Nippo reported the tense pursuit lasted about an hour in the disputed area last Friday. Hitoshi Nakama, a member of the city assembly of Ishigaki Island, was on board the Japanese vessel at the time of the incident.

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Ishigaki Island claims control of the Senkakus and is situated near Taiwan. In 2011, Nakama swam to the disputed territory with a video camera, and urged Japan to make a stronger claim over the islands.

Nakama has said he and others are the "guardians" of the Senkaku Islands and left Japan early morning on May 23 to begin his tour of the area.

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During the most recent trip, the Japanese politician went fishing near a disputed island, known as Miyakojima in Japan and Nanxiaodao in China.

Nakama and the boat's crew were planning to return home on Thursday evening but spent the night at sea because they were informed a Chinese coast guard ship was nearby.

The Japanese vessel was unable to evade the Chinese ship the next day, Friday -- a total of four Chinese patrol boats were near the disputed islands.

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One of the Chinese boats approached the Japanese vessel, coming as close as 30 to 50 meters in distance. The Japanese crew told the Chinese vessel to "change direction" with a loudspeaker.

Soon after, the Chinese boat began pursuing Nakama for about an hour. Chinese authorities used a megaphone to instruct the Japanese crew to "not slow down" and to "not provoke," according to Hong Kong's Ming Pao Daily.

Zhang Mei, a Chinese diplomat based in Tokyo, said the chase was a case of "normal law enforcement."

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Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe are expected to meet at the G20 summit in June in Osaka, Japan. The two sides have yet to resolve longstanding issues regarding history and territory.

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