China fumes over rightists’ shrine on Senkaku Islands


China has urged Japan to look into a media report that a Japanese rightist group has constructed a shrine on one of the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, which are claimed by China, Japan and Taiwan, the Japanese Embassy in Beijing said Sunday.

If the report is true, the Japanese government must remove the structure and ensure that similar incidents are not repeated, Ning Fukui, deputy director of the Department of Asian Affairs of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, reportedly told Takanori Kitamura, a minister of the Japanese Embassy in Beijing, on Saturday night.

Kitamura responded by telling Ning that the government was aware that members of the group, the Japan Youth Federation, had returned from a trip to the islands but had no knowledge of their activities there.

The Japanese daily Sankei Shimbun reported Saturday that the group built a small shrine on one of the islands, partly to honor the memory of Japanese who starved to death there in World War II.

The group also apparently plans to have several Shinto priests permanently living on the island, which is uninhabited.

In July 1996, the Japan Youth Federation built a lighthouse on the disputed territory, provoking angry responses from China, Taiwan and Hong Kong. The Japanese government did not approve of the move.

The Embassy quoted Ning as telling the Japanese diplomat, “The Diaoyu (Senkaku) Islands are China’s inherent territory. We feel strong resentment toward the invasion of our territory.”

Kitamura told Ning that in view of history and international laws, the islands belong to Japan. He also called China’s claim “groundless,” according to the embassy.

Nonetheless, the officials shared the position that their countries should try to head off any developments that threaten bilateral relations.

The Senkaku Islands, located between Japan’s southernmost island prefecture of Okinawa and Taiwan, are believed to be endowed with large reserves of oil and other natural resources. They are called the Diaoyu Islands by China and the Tiaoyutai Islands by Taiwan.