Owners of islands in Japan-China feud shun PM Noda's bid

TOKYO Fri Jul 20, 2012 4:15am EDT

Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda speaks to the media at his official residence in Tokyo July 2, 2012. Japanese political heavyweight Ichiro Ozawa and dozens of other lawmakers quit the ruling party on Monday over a plan to increase the sales tax, but the government will retain its majority in the powerful lower house of parliament. The red spot in the picture is the recording beacon of a TV camera. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda speaks to the media at his official residence in Tokyo July 2, 2012. Japanese political heavyweight Ichiro Ozawa and dozens of other lawmakers quit the ruling party on Monday over a plan to increase the sales tax, but the government will retain its majority in the powerful lower house of parliament. The red spot in the picture is the recording beacon of a TV camera.

Credit: Reuters/Toru Hanai

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TOKYO (Reuters) - Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's effort to nationalize a chain of disputed islands long a source of friction between Japan and China faced rough going after the isles' owners said on Friday they would keep negotiating their sale to Tokyo's governor.

The stance by the Kurihara family, which owns four of the five uninhabited islands in the East China Sea, complicates Noda's efforts to dampen friction between the two Asian giants over the islands, claimed by China, Taiwan and Japan and located near rich fishing grounds and potential gas and oil fields.

"The starting line of our negotiations was with the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and at present we are proceeding with these discussions," said Hiroyuki Kurihara, whose brother and sister own the islands and lease them to Japan's government.

"It is not our family's idea to suddenly switch partners just because someone else has appeared on the scene," Kurihara, 65, told a news conference.

Noda said this month the government was considering buying the islands instead of letting Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara -- an outspoken China critic -- go ahead with a similar plan.

Diplomatic experts said Noda's move was intended to avoid a worsening of Sino-Japanese tensions but risked backfiring and indeed, Beijing has harshly criticized both plans, arguing the islands have been its territory since ancient times.

Ties between Beijing and Tokyo went into a deep chill in 2010 after a Japan arrested a Chinese trawler captain whose boat collided with Japanese Coast Guard vessels near the islands, and analysts say the feud has the potential to flare again.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government is expected to apply soon for permission to land on the islands, a move that could put the central government in a tight spot.

Activists from Japan, China and Taiwan have landed on the islands in the past, sparking diplomatic disputes.

Japan's government has denied permission for such landings on the grounds that the owners objected and for the sake of their peaceful administration, but Kurihara said it would be "unavoidable" for the Tokyo Metropolitan Government to send a survey team as part of the sale negotiations.

The Kurihara family bought the islands beginning in 1972 from another family who Japanese media say had managed them since the late 1890s. An older brother owns three of the islands and a sister owns a fourth. Those four are leased by the Japanese government, which owns the fifth island in the chain.

(Editing by Michael Perry)

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Comments (5)
Spacetime wrote:
These morons stole China’s Diaoyu islands in collaborating with Japan’s militaristic imperialist invasion. It’s totally illegal and will be wiped out by China’s retaliation coming soon.

Jul 20, 2012 10:15am EDT  --  Report as abuse
prastagus wrote:
so who’s the family that the current family bought from? and what is the evidence of that family’s ownership of these islands?

Jul 20, 2012 5:10pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Free_Pacific wrote:
The Senkaku islands were part of the Ryūkyū Kingdom. A people that are more well known now as Okinawan’s (Japan). They were settled and independent from arounnd the 1400′s.

At one time they were mentioned in a chinese log, after they sent an envoy to the kingdom. Because it was mentioned in Chinese txt, this is the base for China’s claim. The silands have never been cotrolled by China in all their history.

This sort of fictitious claim, is the same as claims all over the asia-pacific by China at this time, as it greedily tries to aquire resources. It doesnt care about facts. Basically, if your country was mentioned in a Chinese script at some point, is close enough to be seized by their current armed forces, then that is the basis for their claim.

Jul 20, 2012 8:25pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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