Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Feb. 1 said he would consider permanently basing civil servants on the Senkaku Islands, the center of a diplomatic spat with China.
"That would be one option for the stable maintenance and control of the Senkaku Islands and surrounding waters," Abe said in response to questions in the Upper House from Kenichi Mizuno of Your Party.
Such a move would be an attempt to deal with the repeated violations into Japanese territorial waters by Chinese government ships. Beijing claims sovereignty over the uninhabited islands, which it refers to as the Diaoyu Islands.
Abe added: "The Senkaku Islands are Japanese territory both in terms of history and international law. We will deal with the matter in an appropriate manner by holding the resolute will to protect our own territory."
But he also said he wanted to improve Japan-China relations, which have been strained over the isles issue.
"We will promote relations with China by looking at the bigger picture and returning to the starting point of a mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests," the prime minister said.
He was responding to a question from Natsuo Yamaguchi, the head of junior coalition partner New Komeito, who recently visited China for meetings, including one with new leader Xi Jinping.
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