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Japan ex-minister warns of Okinawa unrest, secession
by Staff Writers
Tokyo (AFP) Jan 31, 2013


Three Chinese ships in disputed island waters: Japan
Tokyo (AFP) Jan 30, 2013 - Three Chinese government ships were sailing in waters around islands disputed with Japan on Wednesday, a day after the Japanese premier suggested a summit could help mend frayed ties.

Japan's coastguard said the maritime surveillance boats were sailing in waters around a chain of Tokyo-controlled islands known as the Senkakus in Japan for about an hour and a half.

They all left the waters by 1:32 pm (0432 GMT), coastguard officials said.

China, which calls the islands the Diaoyus, has repeatedly sent ships to the area since Japan nationalised some of the chain in September. The move triggered a diplomatic dispute and huge anti-Japan demonstrations across China.

Beijing has also sent air patrols to the archipelago in the East China Sea and recently both Beijing and Tokyo have scrambled fighter jets, though there have been no clashes.

On Tuesday Prime Minister Shinzo Abe suggested a summit with China would improve a relationship that has been badly troubled for months.

"A high-level meeting should be held because there is a problem. If necessary, there might be a need to build the... relationship again, starting with a summit meeting," he told a television show.

A former Japanese minister has warned domestic terrorists could strike Tokyo if the government fails to address anger in Okinawa over a heavy US military presence there.

Shozaburo Jimi, minister in charge of financial services and postal reform, under the last government, suggested Wednesday that residents of the sub-tropical island chain may also push for secession from Japan.

"Okinawa has long had a history of independence movements and movements for self-governance. I hope those things will not blaze up," he told local media.

"There's a possibility that (Okinawa) will say it will become an independent state," Jimi said, according to Kyodo News.

"Domestic guerrilla (struggles) could occur as a result of separatist movements," and "terrorist bombings could occur in Tokyo, depending on how the state handles" the issue, said Jimi.

The comments came as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who swept to power in a December election, reiterated his policy of strengthening the Japan-US military alliance and said he was pushing ahead with an unpopular plan to move a large US air base within the prefecture.

Jimi's statements, which come ahead of Abe's weekend visit to Okinawa, were seen as an attempt to press the government to ease the burden on the southern Japanese prefecture, reluctant host to more than half of the 47,000 US military personnel in Japan.

Despite calls from local Okinawan politicians, the central government has stood firm on its plan to move the Futenma Air Station from a residential district of Okinawa to a sparsely populated shoreline area.

Domestic terror attacks hit Japan in the 1960s and 1970s during huge social upheaval and as part of a radicalist and student movement, but the country has since largely escaped the blight of organised political violence.

Jimi is head of the small People's New Party, which was part of the ruling bloc until a December election saw it routed, including in Okinawa.

The often-fractious relationship between the US military and the communities that host them has been further irritated in recent months by a series of crimes committed by drunken servicemen, including the gang rape of a local woman.

Opponents have also seized on the deployment to Okinawa of tilt-rotor Osprey aircraft, which they say have a questionable safety record and put people living nearby at unnecessary risk.

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