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Tokyo chief bares plan to buy disputed Senkaku islets

Publication Date : 18-04-2012


The Tokyo metropolitan government plans to buy three of the Senkaku Islands to "protect them", Tokyo governor Shintaro Ishihara said in Washington on Monday.

The Senkaku Islands, which are administered by Ishigaki, Okinawa Prefecture, are claimed by China and Taiwan.

Ishihara said in the speech the owner of three islands in the five-islet chain--a man living in Saitama Prefecture--has agreed to sell them to the metropolitan government.

In addition to the three islands--Uotsurijima, the largest in the group, Kita-kojima and Minami-kojima--Tokyo is interested in purchasing Kubajima, another island in the chain, the governor said.

Kubajima is owned by a relative of the man in Saitama Prefecture.

Ishihara is visiting the United States at the invitation of the organiser of the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington.

"The islands are the sovereign territory of Japan, and were returned at the time of Okinawa's reversion [to Japan from the United States in 1972]," he said. "[China] later began to claim them. This is outrageous."

Ishihara said the central government should have purchased the three islands.

"However, the central government is too scared to do anything," the governor said. "The Tokyo metropolitan government will protect the Senkaku Islands. How can anyone complain about the Japanese buying the islands to protect the nation's territory, regardless of which country opposes such a move?"

Following the speech, Ishihara told reporters the metropolitan government would propose that the Okinawa prefectural government or the Ishigaki municipal government jointly manage the three islands.

Asked how much the islands would cost, Ishihara declined to give a figure. "It's not that expensive," he said.

Located about 410 kilometres west of Okinawa Island, the main island in the prefecture, the Senkaku Islands consist of five uninhabited islets. Only one, the 0.06-square-kilometre Taishojima is state-owned.

The central government has been leasing the four other islets from their owners, mainly for maintenance and administration purposes. During fiscal 2010, it paid annual fees of about 21.1 million yen for the 3.82-square-kilometre Uotsurijima; about 1.5 million yen for Kita-kojima (0.31 square kilometres); and about 1.9 million yen for Minami-kojima (0.4 square kilometres).

The rent for 0.91-square-kilometre Kubajima has not been disclosed at the owner's request.

China and Taiwan claimed the Senkaku Islands after it was discovered in 1969 that the continental shelf around the islets is rich in oil reserves.

In September 2010, a Chinese trawler collided with two patrol boats of the Japan Coast Guard near the islands. Other Chinese boats have intruded into Japan's territorial waters.

Gov't mystified by plan

The national government has not been informed of the Tokyo metropolitan government's plan to purchase the three Senkaku Islands, Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said Tuesday.

"The government has maintained contact with the owners [of the Senkaku Islands]," Fujimura said during a morning press conference. "However, we aren't aware of [the Tokyo metropolitan government's plan]. Whether we'll discuss [the islands with the local government] is a matter to be considered later."


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