China Chides Japan for Flight Over Disputed Islands

July 1, 2008 Updated: July 1, 2008

BEIJING—China has accused Japan of infringing upon its sovereignty after Japanese lawmakers conducted an aerial survey of disputed islands in a fishery-rich area of the East China Sea, Chinese state media said on Tuesday.

Japanese House of Representatives members, including Yukio Edano of the Democratic Party of Japan and Koichi Hirata of the Liberal Democratic Party, inspected the islands, known by China as the Diaoyu islands and by Japan as the Senkaku isles, for about three and a half hours by plane on Monday, Kyodo news agency reported.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry official had summoned Japanese embassy officials in Beijing to protest against the Japanese government allowing such an inspection, the China Daily said.

Taiwan also claims the eight uninhabited, Japanese-controlled islands, thought to lie near oil and gas reserves and which have long been a source of friction between Beijing, Tokyo and Taipei.

The flyover prompted a statement from Taiwan's foreign ministry late on Monday expressing “serious opposition” and asking Japan to “understand the government's resolve to protect our sovereignty”.

Japan rejected the statement. “We can't accept Taiwan's protest, since we have our own claim to the islands,” an official in the de facto Japanese embassy in Taipei said.

The latest diplomatic scuffle follows a protracted flap last month after the collision of a Japanese coastguard ship and a Taiwan fishing boat in the same area, which is 2,000 kilometres (1,200 miles) south of Tokyo.

Japan named the Taiwan boat captain as a suspect in the collision.