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HK activists clash with police over island dispute

HONG KONG--Anti-Japanese protesters scuffled with police in Hong Kong on Wednesday as they attempted to enter the Japanese consulate following Tokyo's decision to buy disputed islands in the East China Sea.

Around 15 protesters shouted anti-Japanese slogans, burned Japanese flags and called for the Japanese to leave the islands, which are claimed by China, Japan and Taiwan.

“We are extremely angry,” said Tsang Kin-shing, who was among a group of Hong Kong-based activists who landed on the islands last month and raised the Chinese and Taiwanese flags.

Tokyo agreed to purchase the islands, known in Japan as Senkaku and in China as Diaoyu, for 2.05 billion yen (US$26 million) on Monday, prompting Beijing to send two patrol ships to the area.

“Japan is using the issue of Diaoyu Islands to reignite public sentiment, so I believe all Chinese people are angry,” Tsang told reporters.

He said the group that made the successful landing on the islands last month was preparing another trip from Hong Kong.

“Our ship will leave any time,” he said.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has said the islands were “an inherent part of China's territory” and vowed his country would “never ever yield an inch” on its sovereignty.

The islands lie in a strategic shipping area with valuable mineral resources thought to be nearby.

The United States cautioned China and Japan against escalating a row over a group of islands that both nations claim, warning that tensions between the world's second and third-biggest economies would have global repercussions.

“This is the cockpit of the global economy and the stakes could not be bigger and the desire is to have all leaders to keep that squarely in mind,” U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell said in Washington.

“We think in the current environment we want cooler heads to prevail, frankly,” Campbell said while answering questions at a debate held by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies.

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