TOKYO, Aug 18, 2012 (AFP) -- Japan should strengthen its coast guard to defend disputed islands, the ruling party policy chief said Saturday, a day after Tokyo deported pro-Beijing activists who had sailed there.
"Coast guard officials are doing their best, and so the government and the ruling parties will discuss how to strengthen our backup to them," Seiji Maehara, the policy chief of the Democratic Party of Japan told reporters.
"We should discuss not only (increasing) the number of staff and ships but also possibilities of various other supports" to the coast guards, he said.
The comments came a day after the deportation of pro-China activists who sailed to a disputed islands in the East China Sea, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China and controlled by Japan.
On Wednesday some of the 14 had become the first non-Japanese to set foot on any part of the archipelago since 2004.
Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda came under fire from some conservative lawmakers -- including members of the main opposition Liberal Democratic Party and Tokyo governor Shintaro Ishihara -- for not allowing the activists to be held for prosecution.
Members of his ruling party also complained that the coast guard failed to block the activists' landing, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported Saturday.
With the hasty deportation, Noda's government sought a swift end to the potentially damaging row with China as Japan cannot afford squabbles with China and South Korea at the same time, the Yomiuri and Mainichi newspapers said, without disclosing sources.
In a statement issued late Friday, China called on Japan to pursue "dialogue and negotiation" to resolve the two countries' territorial dispute over the islands, also claimed by Taiwan.
In a separate statement, Taiwan accused Japan of "furtively occupying" the islands.
Last week, South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak paid an unprecedented visit to separate islands administered by Seoul and claimed by Japan.
In response, Japan recalled its ambassador from Seoul, cancelled its finance minister's planned trip to Seoul and called on South Korea to resolve the dispute in the International Court of Justice.