Tokyo and Beijing are exchanging tough words over the arrest of 14 Hong Kong protesters and journalists who landed Wednesday on the disputed Senkaku Islands, repeating their harsh rhetoric over who owns the rocky outcroppings in the East China Sea.

But diplomatic experts in Japan agree that deep down, both Japan and China are eager to put the incident behind them as quickly as possible to avoid an all-out diplomatic row like the hostility that broke out in 2010 when the skipper of a Chinese fishing boat was arrested near the uninhabited islets.

"It is clear that China does not want to make a big deal out of (the Senkaku issue) and is focused on trying to prepare a stable environment," said Masayuki Masuda, a senior fellow at the National Institute for Defense Studies.