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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Ishihara presses on in bid for Senkakus

Staff writer

Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara expressed his willingness Monday to eventually sell the Senkaku Islands to the central government after Tokyo buys them from the current Japanese owner.

Addressing a Lower House audit committee, Ishihara accused the government of failing to act in defense of the uninhabited islets, which are effectively controlled by Japan but also claimed by China and Taiwan.

He also revealed that members of the public have donated more than ¥1.1 billion toward the purchase of the islands.

Ishihara is negotiating with the family in Saitama Prefecture that holds title to four of the five Senkaku Islands. Meanwhile, Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura reiterated Monday that the government is also considering buying the islets.

"Everything is too late in my view," Ishihara said. "But it is better than nothing, so the government should hurry up (and buy the islands)" from Tokyo if it acquires them.

The governor also expressed concern over China's alleged provocative actions around the islands in the East China Sea.

"Who is going to defend the islands? I want the (central) government to do so. It is absurd for Tokyo to step in, but we have to," Ishihara said, in a raised voice.

"What kind of country leaves the door unlocked when another country has already declared its intention to commit robbery?"

Also addressing the committee, Yoshitaka Nakayama, mayor of Ishigaki, which has jurisdiction over the Senkakus, voiced support for Ishihara's bid.

Only 170 km from the islets, the people of Ishigaki, Okinawa, would be in danger if China seizes control of the Senkakus and builds a military base there, Nakayama claimed.

"I am very grateful for (the offer) to purchase the islands," Nakayama said. "I believe it is better for public organizations like the government or Tokyo to firmly control the islands rather than leaving them privately owned in a situation where they could be bought anytime by anyone."

Ishihara, an outspoken hawk, also called for the removal of Uichiro Niwa, the Japanese ambassador to China, for stating in a recent interview that Tokyo's purchase of the islands could result in "an extremely grave crisis" with China and could be "diplomatically incendiary."

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The Japan Times

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