Tokyo sends team to study Senkaku islands

Tokyo Metropolitan Government, which along with the national government wants to buy the disputed Senkaku Islands in southwestern Okinawa Prefecture, has had a team drifting in waters of the East China Sea to study the three islands it wants to buy from the Japanese owner.

Tokyo wanted to land on three of the islands – Uotsuri, Kitakojima and Minamikojima — but was warned by the central government to not set foot on the land. Instead, the 25-member Tokyo team arrived on a chartered vessel, then began checking water quality around the three islands while sailing in smaller boats. The central government is making a competing bid for the islands, and doesn’t want Tokyo to get a hands-up.

The central government has offered the Japanese owner of the islands ¥2 billion. Sources say Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara has been unable to match the offer. Still, he thinks Tokyo is still a player in the purchase game.

The Senkaku islands are also claimed by Taiwan, which calls the islands Tiaoyutai, and China, which insists the name of the islands is Diaoyu. Activitists from China, Hong Kong, Japan and Taiwan have been waging visits to the islands over the past month. Ishigaki City has administrative jurisdiction over the islands.

As the dispute rages, Japan’s ruling party chief says “coast guard officials are doing their best, and so the government and the ruling parties will discuss how to strengthen our backup.” Seiji Maehara says “we should discuss not only increasing staff and ships, but also possibilities of various other supports to the Japan Coast Guard.