08/18/2012 01:49 EDT | Updated 10/18/2012 05:12 EDT

China protests Japanese visit to disputed islands

A diplomatic row is heating up between China and Japan over a few uninhabited islands in the waters north of Taiwan, which both countries lay claim to.

China lodged a formal protest ahead of this weekend’s visit by a group of Japanese nationalists, including several politicians, to the disputed islands — known as Diaoyu in China and Senkaku in Japan – in the East China Sea.

The Japanese group, numbering more than 100, headed to islands early Saturday morning and is expected to arrive on Sunday.

They are planning a ceremony to commemorate the country’s dead from the Second World War. Boats will circle the islands as the group holds the event.

The Japanese protest flotilla is a response to a similar action by 14 Chinese activists this week, who reached the islands on Wednesday. A handful of the activists swam to land, planting Chinese flags and declaring the islands part of China.

Ownership of the islands would provide exclusive mineral, oil and fishing rights in surrounding waters.