Japanese officials tour disputed islands

Japanese officials tour disputed islands

TOKYO - Agence France-Presse
A team of Japanese surveyors yesterday sailed to a group of disputed islands in the East China Sea, which the nationalistic governor of Tokyo wants to buy, amid a widening diplomatic row with China.

The 25-member team remained on their boats to survey the shoreline and waters around the rocky uninhabited isles, Japanese television showed. The national government rejected their request to land on the islands.

Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara, known for his outspoken views, dispatched the team, which arrived at the island chain claimed by both countries, known in China as Diaoyu and in Japan as Senkaku. Ishihara wants to buy them from their private owners to highlight Japan’s claim and build a small harbor for fishing vessels. Japan’s national government is also considering buying the islands for $26 million from the same landowners, with whom Ishihara is negotiating.

By avoiding Ishihara’s direct involvement in managing the disputed islands, Japan wants to prevent the dispute with China from heating up further.

Ishihara has previously said he hoped to visit the islands himself in October when he sends another survey mission. Testy Japan-China ties again turned for the worse in Aug. after pro-Beijing activists landed on one of the islands which are controlled by Japan.

They were arrested by Japanese authorities and deported. About a dozen Japanese nationalists raised their country’s flag on the island days later, prompting protests in cities across China.