China had demanded their immediate release
Japan on Friday sent home the first group of Chinese activists detained after landing on an island claimed by both Tokyo and Beijing, but anger in China and South Korea shows the latest flare-up in territorial rows is far from over.
Japan and China, Asia’s two largest economies, have been at odds since the activists were detained on Wednesday after using a boat to land on the rocky, uninhabited isles known as the Senkaku in Japan and the Diaoyu in China.
Seven activists took off for Hong Kong from Okinawa, the Immigration Bureau said, and the rest of the 14-strong group were expected to head home by boat later on Friday.
Japanese television showed them making “V” signs as they were driven to the airport.
Japanese Finance Minister Jun Azumi postponed a trip to South Korea for a meeting with his counterpart scheduled for Aug. 24 because of a trip made by South Korean President Lee Myung-bak to other disputed islands a week ago.
Japan will also review a bilateral currency swap agreement struck with South Korea last year, Azumi said, suggesting that Tokyo could consider cancelling the deal before it expires in October.