TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan is considering deporting 14 Chinese activists arrested over their landing on a disputed island as soon as Friday in a move that could defuse a worsening feud between Tokyo and Beijing, Japanese media reported on Thursday.
The activists, seven of whom landed on Wednesday on the rocky, uninhabited isle in the East China Sea claimed by both nations, have been transferred to Okinawa for questioning by police on Thursday morning, public broadcaster NHK said.
If they did nothing else illegal, the government would deport the activists after questioning, it said.
The feud over a chain of islands, which lie near potentially rich gas reserves, is one of several disputes fraying Japan's ties with Asian neighbors China and South Korea decades after the end of World War Two.
Thursday was the 67th anniversary of the end of the war.
Japan refers to the islets, which lie between Taiwan and Okinawa, as the Senkaku Islands. China calls them the Diaoyu Islands.
Both Japan and China protested over the landing of the activists, who set out from Hong Kong on Sunday, with Tokyo lodging a protest with the Chinese ambassador and Beijing demanding their unconditional and immediate release.
The landing came on a day of regional diplomatic jousting, underscoring how history dogs Japan's ties with China and South Korea.
South Korea prompted an official protest from Japan after comments by South Korean President Lee Myung-bak which some saw as an insult to Japanese Emperor Akihito.
And in a move likely to add to the anger of Japan's neighbors, two Japanese cabinet ministers paid homage at a controversial Tokyo shrine for war dead. A separate row over rival claims by South Korea and Japan to other islands has also intensified.
(Reporting by Tetsushi Kajimoto; Editing by Nick Macfie)