Japan nationalists to rally against centre-left PM, China

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Nationalist groups were set Saturday for a major rally to protest Japan's "diplomatic defeat" to China in a maritime dispute as Russian pressure grows over a long-simmering territorial row.

The rally is being organised by a nationalist network chaired by former air force chief, Toshio Tamogami, who was fired in October 2008 for penning an essay calling for the nation to shed elements of its post-WWII pacifism.

A spokesman for the group said they expected a few thousand anti-China protesters for the demonstration in Tokyo's fashionable Shibuya district, with supporters distributing flyers in a few dozen places across the country.

They accuse China of an "invasion of the Senkaku" -- the Japanese name for islands in the East China Sea, known as Diaoyu in China -- protesting Beijing's hardline response in a recent maritime row.

Asia's two largest economies have been embroiled in a tense diplomatic standoff since Japan's arrest on September 8 of a Chinese trawler captain near the disputed islands.

Japan has since released the captain, but the move did little to ease tensions and left Kan open to domestic attacks from political conservatives claiming he had caved in to Chinese bullying.

As the row with China simmers, the centre-left Kan is facing another diplomatic challenge on the country's northern front with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev expected to visit the disputed Kuril Islands.

China reacted strongly in the Senkaku dispute, freezing high-level talks and visits and taking punitive economic measures, according to industry sources, such as temporarily halting rare earth exports to Japan.

The damaging row, which has so far lasted more than three weeks, appears to have some way left to run, with Tokyo and Beijing continuing to trade calls for the other side to come to heel.

Kan on Friday urged China to act as a "responsible member of the international community".

China responded by calling on Japan to "maintain the full spectrum of relations" between the two nations.

The latest comments follow a travel warning from Beijing, cautioning its citizens over visiting Japan after right-wing nationalists harassed a busload of Chinese tourists this week, surrounding and kicking their bus and hurling abuse.

China last month detained four Japanese construction workers for filming at a restricted military site before allowing three of them to return home Friday. One man remains in custody for further questioning.

With Russia, Japan has already warned that any visit by Medvedev would seriously hurt ties after he said he planned to travel to the islands while on a trip to the Far East this week and was only prevented by bad weather.

A Kremlin source said Friday that Medvedev is expected to visit Japan for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in November.

The Kuril Islands, which lie north of Japan's Hokkaido island, have been controlled by Moscow since they were seized by Soviet troops in 1945 at the end of World War II but Tokyo still claims the southernmost four islands as Japanese territory.

The row has prevented Russia and Japan from signing a peace treaty to formally end World War II.

© 2010 AFP

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