Strains in Japan's relations with neighbors were on full display Wednesday as it sought to commemorate the end of World War II: China said it would protest the detention of 14 Hong Kong activists who embarrassed Tokyo with a high-profile landing on a disputed island, and both Seoul and Beijing issued fresh criticism of its wartime past.
The activists, in a fishing boat, managed to navigate their way to a group of disputed Japan-controlled islands in the East China Sea despite being tracked by up to 10 ships from Japan's coast guard.
'We have achieved our goal successfully in claiming the sovereign right [of China] to the world,' said Chan Yu-nam, vice chairman of the Action Committee for Defending the Diaoyu Islands. 'The action also exceeds our expectations and we accomplished our objective faster than expected.'
The seven activists who actually landed on the island─the first protesters to succeed at doing so since 2004─planted Chinese and Taiwanese flags. The islands are controlled by Japan, which calls them the Senkaku, and claimed by China and Taiwan, which know them as the Diaoyu and the Tiaoyutai, respectively.
The 14 had set out Sunday from Hong Kong, and celebrated the landing as the culmination of a journey complicated by tropical-storm warnings, the loss of food supplies overboard in choppy seas, and disappointment as hoped-for reinforcement boats from Taiwan and mainland China failed to materialize.
A Japanese coast guard official said all 14 were detained, with nine still on the boat at the islands as of Wednesday evening and the other five on their way to Okinawa, Japan's southernmost island prefecture.
'The landing, which took place despite our repeated warnings, is deplorable,' said Osamu Fujimura, Japanese chief government spokesman. China said it was contacting the Japanese Foreign Ministry to lodge 'representations' over the detentions, according to the state-run Xinhua news agency.
China also protested Wednesday the annual visit by Japanese lawmakers to Tokyo's Yasukuni Shrine, where they offered prayers to mark the anniversary of Japan's surrender in 1945. Among more than two million war dead enshrined at the site are war criminals.
For the first time since 2009, when the Democratic Party of Japan took power, this year's visitors included cabinet members─Public Safety Minister Jin Matsubara, and Land and Infrastructure Minister Yuichiro Hata.
Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda had said that he wouldn't visit the shrine and that neither would any cabinet minister─in an official capacity. The two ministers said they visited as 'private individuals.'
Beijing's rebuke was mild, repeating its view that Japan must face up to its history. 'We hope the Japanese side will keep its promise and maintain the overall situation of the China-Japan relations with concrete actions,' Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said in reaction to the Yasukuni visits, according to Xinhua.
In South Korea, President Lee Myung-bak used his annual Liberation Day speech to talk about Japan's actions when it held Korea as a colony, urging Tokyo to resolve anger that lingers over the sexual enslavement of Korean women by the Japanese military during World War II.
'It was a breach of women's rights committed during wartime as well as a violation of universal human rights and historic justice,' Mr. Lee said, according to a translated version of the speech. 'We urge the Japanese government to take responsible measures in this regard.'
Tokyo had reacted angrily to Mr. Lee's remark Tuesday that the Japanese emperor ought to apologize for his country's wartime actions before making any trip to Seoul. Japanese officials said no such trip was planned, in any event.
And this came just a few days after Mr. Lee heated up another territorial dispute by landing on what the U.S. and other countries call the Liancourt Rocks, islets controlled by South Korea (which calls them Dokdo) but also claimed by Japan (which calls them Takeshima).
In response, Japan recalled its ambassador to South Korea on Friday, canceled a planned meeting of the two countries' finance ministers, and said it might ask the International Court of Justice to intervene─an idea rejected twice before by Seoul.
And Wednesday, two Japanese satellite-TV broadcasters said they will postpone airing two South Korean dramas scheduled to start next week because both feature the actor Song Il Guk, who joined a 220-kilometer (136-mile) relay swim to the disputed islands, according to Kyodo News.
Mr. Song, South Korean pop singer Kim Jang Hoon and about 40 other swimmers participated in the relay, which ended Wednesday morning, about 49 hours after the start, with two university students making landfall.
In the dispute over the Senkaku islands, Chinese patrol vessels entered waters near the islands last month, setting off a confrontation with the Japanese coast guard. While such incursions haven't been uncommon in recent months, this one came shortly after an announcement by Japanese Prime Minister Noda that the government was considering purchasing the Japan-controlled islands, now privately owned.
The uninhabited islands have been a source of tension for many years.
Pro-Chinese groups have made repeated attempts to land there but in most cases have been blocked by Japanese patrol vessels.
In 1996, a Hong Kong activist drowned after diving into waters near the island and in 2010, the arrest of a Chinese trawlerman after his boat collided with two Japanese coast guard vessels sparked a drawn-out diplomatic incident.
ALEXANDER MARTIN / TOKO SEKIGUCHI
2009年日本民主党(Democratic Party of Japan)上台以来，内阁成员今年首次加入了参拜者的行列，他们是日本国家公安委员会委员长松原仁(Jin Matsubara)和国土交通大臣羽田雄一郎(Yuichiro Hata)。
作为回应，上周五日本召回其驻韩国大使，并取消了两国财长原本计划召开的一次会议。日方表示，日本可能要求海牙国际法庭(International Court of Justice)介入此事，这一想法曾两次遭到首尔方面的拒绝。
据日本共同社(Kyodo News)报道，周三日本两家卫星电视台表示，他们将推迟播出原定于下周开始播放的两部韩国电视剧，因为这两部电视剧都有韩国演员宋一国(Song Il Guk)参演。宋一国此前参加了“登独岛”的220公里游泳接力。
宋一国、韩国流行歌手金长勋(Kim Jang Hoon)以及其他约40位游泳好手参加了此次游泳接力活动。接力在持续了约49个小时之后于周三上午结束，最后有两名韩国大学生登上独岛。
ALEXANDER MARTIN / TOKO SEKIGUCHI