Ishihara adds another Senkaku isle to shopping list; Niwa says sorry

June 09, 2012

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN

Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara said on June 8 that he wants to buy a fourth island in the Senkaku chain, which is at the center of a territorial dispute between Japan and China.

Ishihara, who announced in Washington on April 16 that the metropolitan government planned to purchase three of the islands in the East China Sea, said he now had his eye on a fourth: Kubashima island, which he said is the property of the younger sister of the Saitama man who owns the other three.

“I do not know what discussions (the family) will have, but I think we will be able to acquire the four islands,” Ishihara said. “(The matter) will be complicated if one island is owned by another person.”

Kubashima island lies more than 20 kilometers northeast of Uotsurishima, Kita-Kojima and Minami-Kojima islands, which Ishihara already plans to buy. Together, they comprise the four main islands in the Senkaku chain, which China calls the Diaoyutai islands and claims as its own.

Kubashima island has been rented by the Defense Ministry since 1972, and is used as a firing range by U.S. forces in Japan. The rent has not been made public.

Ishihara also said on June 8 that the Tokyo government had canceled the participation of Tokyo officials in a planned fishing trip in waters around the Senkaku Islands on June 9 and 10.

“(The organizers) are a highly political group,” he said. “I decided to cancel.”

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Koichiro Genba said June 8 that Uichiro Niwa, Japan’s ambassador to China, had apologized for his comments on Ishihara’s plan to buy the islands.

Niwa had told a British newspaper that the plan would cause “an extremely grave crisis in Japan-China relations.”

That triggered an excoriating response from Ishihara. “(Niwa) had better make comments only after he has learned more about his country,” Ishihara said. “If not, he is not eligible as an ambassador.”

Genba said the Japanese Embassy in China sent him a letter on June 7 in which Niwa said: “I am extremely sorry. I will not make comments like this.”

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
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Senkaku Islands (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

Senkaku Islands (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

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  • Senkaku Islands (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
  • Uichiro Niwa (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

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