TOKYO (Reuters) - Thousands of Japanese nationalists demonstrated on Saturday against China and Tokyo’s handling of a territorial spat that has chilled ties between Asia’s top economies, one week before an Asia-Pacific summit in Japan.
It was the third such rally since September when Japan detained the Chinese captain of a boat that collided with ships near disputed islands in the East China Sea, the site of vast potential gas and oil reserves.
The dispute returned to the headlines on Friday after an online video, which media said had been leaked, appeared to show a Chinese fishing boat colliding with Japanese patrol vessels. Japan’s government said it was checking the video’s authenticity.
“It took (a leak of the video) for the Japanese people to learn the truth,” said Toshio Tamogami, head of Ganbare Nippon, the group that organised the rally.
“The government is hiding the truth,” he said to rousing applause from the crowd in central Tokyo’s Hibiya Park, many of whom were waving national flags. Organisers said around 5,000 participants joined the post-rally march through central Tokyo.
Prime Minister Naoto Kan has faced heavy criticism domestically for freeing the captain and tensions remain high, clouding the prospects for bilateral talks with Chinese President Hu Jintao at the Nov. 13-14 Asia-Pacific summit.
Tamogami, a former air force chief who was fired after publishing an essay that argued Japan was not an aggressor in World War Two, also organised two rallies in October that drew around 3,000 participants.
Such demonstrations have been attracting a broader spectrum of Japanese worried about the moribund economy and China’s growing influence, in contrast to traditional nationalist gatherings of men dressed in military fatigues.
Hiroki Sato, a 23-year-old unemployed man, said he had participated in the two October rallies as well as the latest demonstration to protest both China and the Japanese government’s handling of the isles dispute.
“Prime Minister Kan and Chief Cabinet Secretary (Yoshito) Sengoku’s response to China has been very weak,” he told Reuters. “The government needs to release the entire video (of the boat collision) to the public.”
(Reporting by Chris Gallagher, editing by Andrew Marshall)