Japan warns nationals as boat row simmers
BEIJING (AFP) - – Japan has warned its nationals living in China to be vigilant, an embassy official said Thursday, ahead of possible protests over Tokyo's arrest of a Chinese boat captain in disputed waters.
Beijing and Tokyo are entangled in their worst diplomatic spat in years, stemming from the collision last week of a Chinese fishing trawler and two Japanese coastguard vessels near a disputed island chain in the East China Sea.
China has so far summoned Japan's ambassador five times over the incident and demanded the captain's unconditional release. Tokyo says the skipper intentionally rammed the Japanese vessels during a high-seas chase.
Anti-Japanese protesters are planning demonstrations at the weekend in Beijing and Shanghai, reports say, prompting Tokyo's embassy to urge nationals living or working in China to take heed.
"We warned Japanese nationals living in China as well as those travelling and doing business here, through emails and our website, that they should take care of their safety," an embassy press officer told AFP.
The Japanese official, who asked not to be named, said the embassy had no specific information that a demonstration would take place outside the mission on Saturday, and had received no guidance from Chinese police.
A notice posted on the embassy's website said police had told Tokyo they would "do their utmost to ensure the safety of Japanese nationals".
The statement, dated Wednesday, urged Japanese citizens living in China to "use caution in words and attitude when engaging with Chinese individuals" and refrain from carrying out "noticeably provocative actions".
China's state Global Times newspaper quoted Li Nan, a member of the China Federation of Defending the Diaoyu Islands, as saying his group was considering weekend demonstrations.
A posting in a chatroom of the group's website called for a protest outside the Japanese consulate in Shanghai on Saturday morning.
The uninhabited islands -- called Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China -- lie in an area with rich fishing grounds that is also believed to contain oil and gas deposits, and which has been a frequent focus of regional tensions.
China, Japan and Taiwan all claim the islands.
Beijing has already postponed talks with Tokyo on joint energy exploration in the East China Sea and scrapped a trip to Japan by a senior lawmaker in protest, branding the skipper's arrest "illegal".
Tokyo has called the situation "extremely regrettable" and said there were no plans for the prime ministers of China and Japan, the world's number two and three economies, to meet next week on the sidelines of a UN summit in New York.
"Nothing is decided at this point. Both sides have made no active efforts to set up such a meeting," Japan's top government spokesman Yoshito Sengoku said, asked if the bilateral meeting will be held in New York.
The United States has weighed in on the deepening diplomatic spat, urging both sides to resolve the matter through dialogue.
Ties between China and Japan had steadily warmed since 2006, when they began to put behind decades of distrust stemming largely from Japan's wartime invasion of China. They already have a deep trade and economic relationship.
China's communist government often invokes humiliating past incursions by foreign powers to stir nationalism-tinged support at home. It reacts furiously to any apparent territorial challenge, whether on land or at sea.
Chinese protesters staged sometimes violent protests in China in 2005 and 2006 over a range of grievances with Tokyo, including the publication of school textbooks in Japan that referred to the Nanjing massacre as an "incident".
"It's necessary to let Japan feel the threat from grassroots Chinese against its interests," the Global Times said in a commentary.
Sarkozy fury over EU attack on Roma round-up
PARIS (AFP) - – President Nicolas Sarkozy reacted furiously Wednesday after the European Commission compared France's expulsion of Roma Gypsies to Nazi tactics.
France has been under fire for weeks over Sarkozy's controversial drive to deport ethnic Roma living in travelling communities in France back to Romania and Bulgaria, and Paris now faces the threat of European legal action.
An EU founder member that boasts of being the homeland of human rights, France was shocked when Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding of Luxembourg Tuesday condemned the clampdown in stark terms.
Sarkozy hit back at a meeting with French lawmakers, mockingly suggesting that Luxembourg host the Roma, and promising to respond to the complaints on Thursday at a summit of European Union leaders in Brussels.
"He said he was only applying European regulations, French laws, and France is irreproachable in the matter but that if the Luxembourgers want to take them he had no problem," said Senator Bruno Sido of Sarkozy's UMP party.
"He said that our policy is right and, as he will explain tomorrow, it's scandalous that Europe expresses itself like this on what France is doing."
Luxembourg retorted in similarly harsh terms, with Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn branding Sarkozy's suggestion "malicious" and insisting that Reding had been speaking for Europe and not simply her homeland.
In Brussels, the chairman of the Commission stood by the justice commissioner and said there would be an investigation of France's policy.
"Prohibition of discrimination based on ethnic origin is one of the EU's fundamental values and the EU will do whatever is necessary to ensure respect for these principles," Jose Manuel Barroso told reporters.
The Portuguese official said Reding enjoyed the support both of her commission colleagues and "my personal backing."
France's key ally in Europe, Germany, also supported Reding.
"Freedom of movement within the EU applies without conditions, ethnic minorities should not be discriminated against ... and basic rights apply," German government spokesman Steffen Seibert told a regular briefing.
Bulgarian President Georgy Parvanov weighed in with Sofia's first official protest, saying France was out of step with European values.
On Tuesday, Reding declared she was "appalled by a situation which gave the impression that people are being removed from a member state of the European Union just because they belong to a certain ethnic minority.
"This is a situation I had thought Europe would not have to witness again after the Second World War," she added, sparking fury in France, where talk of the Vichy-era persecution of Jews and Gypsies touches a raw nerve.
Both Barroso and Seibert expressed regret at the tone of Reding's statement, but stood by her right to make the criticism.
Reding, however, attempted to soften her words on Wednesday telling AFP she regretted the "interpretations that are distracting attention from a problem that must be solved now."
In an apparent contradiction of her earlier quotes, she added: "I in no way wanted to draw a parallel between World War II and the actions of the French government today."
Meanwhile, Italian President Silvio Berlusconi backed President Sarkozy saying Reding should have raised her concerns in private with French leaders.
A US State Department official, who asked not to be identified, urged France to "respect the human rights" of the Roma community.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she expected the issue of the Roma to be discussed at a one-day summit in Brussels on Thursday but that she hoped there would be a "better tone."
France stepped up its Roma round-up in August, after Sarkozy called for unauthorised Gypsy and Roma camps to be dismantled, and foreign-born Roma to be sent back to their Eastern European homelands.
Stung by criticism that the ensuing campaign -- in which hundreds of Roma have been put on flights -- amounts to mass deportation targeted at a single minority, France claimed each migrant's case was handled individually.
French ministers say most of those who left had accepted voluntary repatriation, and the rest had been expelled by judges for failing to meet EU-approved residence criteria.
That defence fell apart last week, however, when a document surfaced showing that the interior ministry had taken Sarkozy's speech at face value and ordered police to make clearing Roma camps their "priority".
More than 1,000 Roma have been expelled from France since Sarkozy's speech, with the latest batch of 69 flying out from Marseille on Tuesday.
Those who agree to go voluntarily receive 300 euro (390 dollars) grants to restart their lives, those who do not are brought before a judge who can expel them if they have no proven means of support in France.
Last edited by saya_leviathan; 2010-09-16 at 03:20.