TOKYO – Japan is embroiled in a set of diplomatic crises with China and South Korea over two groups of disputed islands. The long-standing disputes flared up as countries in the region commemorated the end of World War II.
Authorities deported 14 Chinese activists and journalists accused of illegally entering the country's territory when they landed on an island that Japan controls but China claims.
The group traveled by boat to rocky outcroppings known in Japan as the Senkaku islands. In China and Taiwan they're called Diaoyu.
Several activists landed on one of the islands Wednesday, and Japanese authorities arrested them.
Chinese authorities said the arrests were illegal and called for the immediate release of the group. Demonstrators supporting Beijing have gathered in front of the Japanese Embassy and its consulates in China.
Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda decided Friday to deport the activists without pressing charges.
Noda says it is "deeply regrettable" that the activists entered Japan's territorial waters and landed on one of the Senkaku islands illegally, despite repeated warnings.
Some Japanese see the deportation as an attempt to avoid additional frictions with China, a key trading partner. Japanese opposition parties have criticized the decision, saying the activists should have been punished more severely.
In separate developments, Japanese authorities want to take a territorial dispute with South Korea before the International Court of Justice (ICC).
The dispute centers on a group of islets called Takeshima in Japan and Dokdo in South Korea. Seoul controls the islands but Japan claims them.
The dispute was reignited last week, when South Korean President Lee Myung-bak visited the islands, drawing a sharp protest from Tokyo.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said Friday Tokyo is determined to deal with the territorial dispute calmly, under international law.
He says Tokyo proposed to the South Korean government that they take the case to the ICC within the next few days, with the aim of resolving the issue based on international law in a calm, fair and peaceful manner.
Japan needs South Korea's approval to take the matter to court. But South Korea's foreign ministry dismissed the proposal, saying the islands are unequivocally part of its territory.