An influential Japanese nationalist politician has demanded that Japan build a port on the Senkaku Islands, in apparent disregard of efforts by the Japanese and Chinese governments to calm tensions over the disputed territory.
Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara said he told Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda that constructing a harbor for fishing boats, potentially establishing a Japanese economic presence on islands claimed by China and Taiwan, is one condition for his withdrawing a bid to buy the islands on behalf of the Tokyo metropolitan government.
Ishihara was speaking at a news conference on Aug. 31. He said the conversation took place at the prime minister's office 12 days earlier, after a request by government officials.
Japan administers the uninhabited Senkakus and tightly restricts access by individuals. In August, tit-for-tat landings by activists provoked heated exchanges between Tokyo and Beijing and demonstrations in dozens of Chinese cities, although both governments have since apparently tried to calm tensions.
Ishihara said Japan should tighten control of the Senkakus, and that a port could give sanctuary to fishing crews in the event of a storm.
In April he launched a fund-raising effort on behalf of the Tokyo government to purchase some of the islets from their private owner. The Noda administration later announced a parallel plan to buy the Senkakus for the Japanese nation.
Ishihara said he told Noda if the port is built he would hand over the 1.4 billion yen ($17.8 million) already donated for his purchase bid.
Noda replied saying he needed time to consider the proposal, and central government officials said a response would be made in the coming week, Ishihara said.
But Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said at a news conference on Aug. 31 that no such response would likely be forthcoming because the Tokyo metropolitan government had not submitted a formal request.
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