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Japanese fire water cannon at Chinese protesters in disputed territory, activists say

Japanese fire water cannon at Chinese protesters in disputed territory, activists say

Japanese patrol vessels fired water cannon Sunday at a boat carrying Chinese activists who were protesting Japanese claims to territory in the East China Sea, the activist group said.
A boat carrying the protesters arrived near the disputed islets _ known as the Diaoyu Islands in China and Senkaku in Japan _ on Sunday evening, according to the activists' group, the Hong Kong-registered China Federation of Defending Diaoyu Islands.
"At around 7 p.m., the boat was seven nautical miles (13 kilometers; 8 statute miles) away from Diaoyu Island," the activists' spokesman in Beijing, Li Nan, told the Associated Press.
"The Japanese used water cannon to disperse the boat to around 12 nautical miles (22 kilometers; 13 statute miles) away. They are now standing off in the waters," Li said.
The dispute over the islets is one of many that have strained ties between Tokyo and Beijing.
Tokyo controls the islands, also claimed by Taiwan, as well as the surrounding fishing grounds. Japan seized the islands in 1895 when it colonized Taiwan.
It was not immediately known if anyone on board was injured, Li added.
He said the four protesters _ who sailed from a port near Xiamen, southern China, on Friday _ telephoned the activist group in Beijing when they neared the disputed islets Sunday evening.
Li said he did not know what the protesters would try to do next, but believed they will wait for an opportunity to land on one of the disputed islands, Li said.
Japanese officials said Japan Coast Guard patrol vessels first spotted the boat Sunday evening and that they were monitoring its movements.
Japan Coast Guard official Takashi Matsumori could not immediately confirm if the patrol vessels had used water cannon against the boat. The activist group did not say if it was Japan Coast Guard patrol boats that had fired the water cannon.
The activists' boat, carrying a Chinese flag, entered the disputed waters prompting the patrol vessels to issue warnings, coast guard official Satoshi Matsuyama said.
The boat left the disputed waters about an hour later and was traveling westward, the official said.
Coast guard vessels were patrolling the area so that the boat would not re-enter the disputed waters, according to Matsuyama.
Japan lodged a protest with China through diplomatic channels Sunday following the incident, the Japanese Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Tokyo told Beijing that the islands "are no doubt our territory historically and according to international law," according to the ministry. Tokyo also said, "It is extremely regrettable something like this happened and we strongly protest," according to the statement.
The ministry said China responded by saying that Japan's protest was "not acceptable," and urged Tokyo to respond calmly.
The Japanese government has set up a task force to monitor the situation, Japan's Kyodo News agency said.
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Associated Press Writer Chisaki Watanabe in Tokyo contributed to this report.