Japan’s government is hoping to buy the private Senkaku Islands to bolster the country’s claim to ownership in the face of increasing Chinese counter-claims.
The central Japanese government has been leasing four of the five islands from the Kurihara family for many years. Landings are by government permission only and rarely granted, Kyodo News Agency reported.
But the government is looking pay about $25.4 million to the Kurihara family, which owns four of the five islands at the center of Japan’s diplomatic row with China, Kyodo said.
The government wishes to head off a bid by the Metropolitan Government of Tokyo’s right-of-center leader Shintaro Ishihara, who would incorporate the islands into the city administration. He began making purchase overtures to the Kurihara family in April, Kyodo said.
Tokyo’s conservative governor said Monday that the metropolitan government has decided to purchase a group of islands in the East China Sea at the center of a bitter bilateral territorial dispute between the two regional powers, in a move that could heighten tensions between Japan and China.
Shintaro Ishihara, a popular politician known for his nationalistic views and provocative style, said Tokyo has been negotiating with the private Japanese owners of the islands-known as the Senkaku in Japanese and the Diaoyu in Chinese-adding that the metropolitan government is close to reaching an agreement to buy them.
Both Japan and China claim the strategically coveted islands, located between Japan’s southern Okinawa Prefecture and Taiwan. A collision between a Chinese fishing boat and a Japanese coast guard vessel in September 2010 near the islands ignited a diplomatic spat that has left lingering scars in bilateral relations.
“Tokyo has decided to buy the Senkaku Islands. Tokyo is going to protect the Senkakus,” Mr. Ishihara said in a speech in Washington at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. “Would anyone have a problem with an act by the Japanese to protect our own land?”
The purchase, Mr. Ishihara explained, is aimed at preventing China from taking “effective control” of the islands out of Japan’s hands, according to Japanese media reports. He didn’t disclose the value of the purchase, but added that the matter has to be discussed by the metropolitan assembly.