Fearing the damage to diplomatic relations with China should Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government succeed in its purchase of the disputed Senkaku Islands, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has said that the central government will be increasing its own efforts to purchase the territory from its private owner. Speaking to reporters on July 7th, Noda commented that he would be finding out what the Tokyo’s government’s plan is, and then holding discussions with the Japanese land owner who lives in Saitama Prefecture.
The disputed islands, located in the East China Sea, have been the source of numerous tensions between Japan and China. The five islets that make up the Senkakus have been controlled by Japan for decades now, but China has never given up its claims that the lands are its own territory. Governor Ishihara announced the Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s intentions to purchase the island on April 17th using public donations, having now received more than 1.3 billion yen (approx. $16.3 million).
Commenting about Noda’s statements that the central government would be intending to step in, Ishihara said that it won’t be easy for them to take over what he has already accomplished. Adding that Noda is only attempting to improve the popularity of his struggling administration, Ishihara claims the private owner, Hiroyuki Kurihara, has stated that he has no intent to sell to the central government.
The islands are seen as vital to Japan’s fishing industry as the surrounding waters are very profitable. But China, which calls the territory the Diaoyu, and even Taiwan, increased their claims to the lands after it discovered there may be reserves of natural gas in the area. Regardless if whether the purchase is made by the central government or by Ishihara and Tokyo, relations will become much more strained with China. But official in the central government feel that things would be much worse with Ishihara behind the wheel, with his right-wing nationalism and habit of making inflammatory remarks about the two countries’ histories and the Chinese people.
[Via Washington Post]