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Japanese govt should work out specifics for stable control of Senkakus

Publication Date : 07-09-2012

 

The Japanese government's decision to place the Senkaku Islands under state control is a step toward stably maintaining and controlling the islets.

The government reportedly has agreed with the owner of three of the islands--Uotsurijima, Kita-kojima and Minami-kojima--that it will purchase them. The money to buy them, totaling about 2.05 billion yen (US$26 million), is likely to be procured from a reserve fund.

Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara's proactive steps to jump-start the purchase negotiations with the owner apparently prompted the central government, which had been dragging its feet on the issue, to make such a move. Ishihara has expressed his willingness to accept state control of the islands and hand over to the central government more than 1.4 billion yen that was donated to the Tokyo metropolitan government to buy them.

The central government sold the islands to the private sector 80 years ago, and the ownership has changed hands since then. We highly regard efforts to put the islands back under state control as it will end the current instability connected with private ownership.

The government has leased the three islets from the current owner and placed them under its effective control. It has since conducted minimum administrative work for the islets by restricting entry to government officials and other such parties.

Consideration for China

Such a hesitant stance was taken apparently because the government did not want to provoke China, which also claims sovereignty over the Senkaku Islands.

However, China's fishery patrol boats have repeatedly engaged in provocative acts near the Senkakus. Public criticism against Japan has also grown in China over the issue.

Japan needs not only to renovate a lighthouse and protect the environment on the islands but also to draw up measures to protect its sovereignty and further tighten its effective control of the islands.

Ishihara and the city government of Ishigaki, Okinawa Prefecture, which has jurisdiction over the islands, have called on the central government to build facilities there, such as port facilities that can shelter fishing boats during bad weather and a radio relay station for fishing vessels. The central government should look into the validity of such calls and, if necessary, consider working out the details.

We believe it would be reasonable for the central government to cooperate with the Tokyo metropolitan government, which has the know-how to manage remote islands such as the Ogasawara Islands.

Strengthen sea surveillance

Meanwhile, Japan needs to strengthen the Japan Coast Guard's policing system and its authority to beef up surveillance of the Senkaku Islands. A bill to revise the Japan Coast Guard Law, which was approved during the current Diet session, is part of such efforts.

Previously, when foreigners landed illegally on the Senkakus, police officers had to come all the way from neighboring islets. But under the revised law, JCG officers will be allowed to arrest such intruders.

Also, we must not forget the importance of the U.S. military's deterrence. If the military's new Osprey transport aircraft is deployed in Okinawa Prefecture, the mobility of US marines will be improved, raising hopes of holding China in check.

Anti-Japan activists based in Hong Kong reportedly have vowed to make an unauthorised landing on the Senkakus again in October. If Hong Kong authorities allow them to set out for the islands, the Japan-China relationship would worsen and the move would go against China's own interests.

If Japanese and Chinese leaders hold a summit meeting on the sideline of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit talks this weekend, they should discuss the future bilateral relationship from a broad point of view.

 

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