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Tokyo’s ambassador to China scolded over Senkaku remarks

Date Posted: 2012-06-14

Japan’s Foreign Minister has taken the Japanese Ambassador to China to task for his outspoken comments criticizing a Tokyo plan to purchase the disputed Senkaku islands in southern Okinawa Prefecture.

Ambassador Uichiro Niwa had criticized Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara’s plan to purchase the islands in an interview with Britain’s Financial Times, saying the plan could jeopardize economic relations with China built over the past decades, and could cause a grave crisis. Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba was quick to blast Niwa, telling media in Tokyo that Niwa’s thoughts were not consistent with Japanese official government policy. “The change of ownership is a domestic matter that does not concern the international community,” Gemba explained, noting he’s chastised Niwa and already received a letter of apology from the ambassador, along with promises he’ll not make further comments.

Ishihara, meanwhile, took Niwa to task, telling reporters “he is not qualified to be Japan’s ambassador to anywhere.” The Tokyo governor says Niwa, the former president of Itochu, a trading company, needs to learn more about the history of his own country.

Donations to purchase four islands now being leased by the Japanese government from a private landowner are now in excess of ¥1 billion. Gov. Ishihara hasn’t disclosed details of his negotiations with the Kurihara family in Saitama Prefecture, saying only that buying the islands will not be “too expensive”.

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