Japan to offer ¥2 billion to purchase Senkaku Isles

Japan’s central government is getting ready to offer ¥2 billion to the owner of the disputed Senkaku Islands, wanting to settle the conflict and bring the islands under state control within the next few weeks.

Behind-the-scenes negotiations are under way with the Kurihama family, which owns four of the five uninhabited islands in the East China Sea in southwest Okinawa Prefecture. Initially, the family had said it would only deal with an offer from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara, but now has adopted a more flexible stance on who it will sell to.

Ishihara first got the ball rolling in April, when he offered to buy Uotsuri, Kitakojima and Minamikojima, just to nail down Japanese ownership of the controversial islands also claimed by China and Taiwan. His efforts have already resulted in donations totaling more than ¥1.4 billion, prompting the central government to jump in. Taishojima, the smallest island, is already owned by the central government and Tokyo is now leasing the other four.

The Senkaku Islands have been administered by Japan since 1895, but China, which calls the islands Diaoyu, and Taiwan, where the islands are known as Tiaoyutai, insist they belong to them. They began making their claims in the early 1970’s after studies revealed potentially rich and valuable gas fields might be in the area.

The central government’s Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Nagahama is said to have approached the Kurihara family late last month on orders from Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda. Reportedly, talks between Ishihara’s team and the family were breaking down over disputes over the price to be paid. Ishihara wants the government to nationalize the island after Tokyo buys them, but sources say Noda’s government isn’t supporting Ishihara’s proposal, noting “there is no guarantee that nationalization would come through.”

The former Chinese ambassador to Japan, Xu Dunxin, says it would be best for everyone to leave the Senkaku islands alone. He says the smart move is to maintain the status quo, leaving the territorial dispute between Taiwan, China and Japan as it is now, if there’s no solution to be found through negotiations over the islands.
Xu, a former vice foreign minister, says those who criticize the Chinese position as weak because no strong action is forthcoming are simply wrong. He says those people will learn that China is on the right path as it attempts to find a solution to the Senkaku issue through peaceful negotiations. He warns Japan, however, that bilateral relations could be endangered if Japan takes a hard line stance on the unoccupied islands.