Aug. 17 - Five boats carrying activists from a Japanese nationalist group set sail for waters at the center of a territorial row with China. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) STORY: A flotilla of five boats carrying 20 Japanese nationalists set sail on Saturday for disputed waters at the heart of a bitter territorial dispute with China. The boats are heading for a handful of uninhabited islets known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, and are expected to arrive in the early hours of Sunday. The islands are controlled by Japan but claimed by both countries. The voyage comes just days after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sent an offering to Tokyo's controversial Yasukuni Shrine for war dead and several cabinet ministers visited in person, further inflaming already fraught ties with China. Members of the nationalist Ganbare Nippon ("Stand Firm, Japan") group landed on the islets in August 2012 and have traveled to disputed waters regularly over the past year. This year they have said they will not land, but rather conduct a survey of fishing grounds in the area. The waters around the islands, about 170 kilometer or 105 miles from Japan's southerly Ishigaki island, are rich fishing grounds and also have potentially huge oil and gas reserves. Japanese ships are allowed to sail to waters around them, but the Japanese government generally prohibits landing. The region is seeing an increasingly risky cat-and-mouse game between Asia's two largest economies with fighter planes scrambled and patrol ships facing off. Last week, Chinese patrol boats entered Japanese territorial waters and stayed there for more than 24 hours, the longest since surveillance around the islands was increased after Japan purchased several of them from a private owner in September 2012. Ganbare Nippon is not officially affiliated with any political party, but its members have organized rallies to support Abe and visited Yasukuni en masse on Thursday (August 15), carrying Japanese flags and banners.