BEIJING - Agence France-Presse
An anti-Japan protester shouts slogans near a Chinese national flag outside Japanese Embassy in Beijing, China. AP photo
China on Saturday demanded that Japan immediately cease actions "harming" its territorial sovereignty amid an escalating dispute over rival claims to islands in the East China
China's foreign ministry made the comment in a statement reacting to plans by a group of Japanese to sail Saturday to the uninhabited islands after Tokyo deported pro-China activists who had sailed there from Hong Kong.
"China has made solemn representations to Japan, demanding that it immediately cease actions harming China's territorial sovereignty," the statement said.
The statement by ministry spokesman Qin Gang, was in response to a media question regarding the planned trip to the contested islands by Japanese lawmakers and nationalist groups.
"China reiterates that any unilateral action taken by Japan regarding" the islands "are illegal and invalid", it said, adding that such actions will not undermine its claim over the territory.
It follows another statement late Friday which called on Japan to pursue "dialogue and negotiation" to resolve the dispute.
Japan, which controls the islands, on Friday deported 14 activists who had sailed there, moving swiftly to put an end to a potentially damaging row with Beijing.
Some of them become the first non-Japanese to set foot on any part of the East China
Sea archipelago -- known as Diaoyu in China
and Senkaku in Japan -- since 2004.