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Okinawa wants government to protect Senkaku Islands

Date Posted: 2010-10-07

A group of 27 Okinawa Prefecture officials led by the mayors of Ishigaki and Miyakojima is applying pressure on Japan’s central government in Tokyo to be more firm in defending the Senkaku Islands in the news since a Chinese fishing trawler crossed into the waters and triggered an international incident early last month.

Ishigaki Mayor Yoshitaka Nakayama and Miyakojima Mayor Toshihiko Shimoji are speaking out on behalf of the 27, asking the government to beef up Japan Coast Guard patrols off waters near the islands. The islands have been the subject of political tension since Japanese authorities arrested the Chinese fishing boat captain near the islands. Japan maintains sovereignty over the Senkaku Islands, but China and Taiwan also claim ownership of the islands.

The Senkaku Islands, 410 kilometers west of Okinawa’s main island and 170 kilometers northeast of Taiwan have been controversial for many years, but only recently have Chinese begun sending vessels into the disputed waters. Okinawa Prefecture claims the islands as part of its territory. Japan’s Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary, Motohisa Furukawa, has met with the 27 Okinawa prefecture officials, telling them the government has already begun reinforcing Japan Coast Guard patrols in the region.

Okinawa officials want more action, though, asking the government to establish ports on the Senkaku Islands to allow fishing boats to take refuge in bad weather. The Okinawan leaders have also met with the leading vice secretary-general of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan, Akira Nagatsuma, to express their opinions to government agencies. They’ve also met with a nonpartisan group of lawmakers who formed a union a week ago to keep track of the issues related to the islands. Japan’s former internal affairs and communications minister Kazuhiro Haraguchi, a key member of that group, says he’ll visit the prefecture soon.

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