DHAKA: Japan is expected to deport a group of activists who sailed to disputed islands, Japanese media reports say.
Police have questioned the group, who sailed from Hong Kong, and they are being handed to immigration authorities, Japanese media said.
The group sailed to islands known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China on Wednesday.
The case has sparked a diplomatic row and a number of small protests outside Japanese diplomatic missions.
Japan has decided to deport the activists, Kyodo news agency said, citing unidentified government sources.
Nine members of the group were sent to the immigration bureau on Thursday night, while five activists who landed on one of the islands will be transferred there on Friday, Japanese broadcaster NHK reported.
"With the process, they will leave the hands of police and go to immigration," a police spokesman told AFP news.
Chinese state media, quoting an unnamed Chinese diplomat, said all 14 would be sent back to Hong Kong ``no later than Friday``.
China has repeatedly called for the activists` immediate and unconditional release.
Small groups of protesters also gathered outside Japanese diplomatic missions in Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong.
It is the first time non-Japanese nationals have landed on the islands - which are controlled by Japan - since 2004.
Both Japan and China lodged formal protests with each other over the incident, while US urged the two nations to resolve the conflict peacefully.
Largely uninhabited, the islands are close to strategically important shipping lanes, offer rich fishing grounds and are thought to contain oil deposits.
Rows over the disputed islands have caused ties to freeze between the two countries in the past.
In September 2010, relations between China and Japan plummeted after the arrest of a Chinese trawler captain near the islands.
The captain was accused of ramming two Japanese patrol vessels in the area, but Japan eventually dropped the charges against him.
BDST: 0933 HRS, AUG 17, 2012
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