News / Asia

Japan to Mobilize Coast Guard When Beijing's Ships Reach Islands

A group of disputed islands known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China is seen from the city government of Tokyo's survey vessel in the East China Sea, September 2, 2012.
A group of disputed islands known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China is seen from the city government of Tokyo's survey vessel in the East China Sea, September 2, 2012.
Japan says it will mobilize its coast guard when Chinese government ships reach a disputed archipelago in the East China Sea, raising the possibility of a confrontation between the two powerful Asian nations.

In a statement given to VOA Wednesday, the Japanese foreign ministry said the coast guard mobilization will happen "when the (Chinese) ships get there, or at least come closer to" the Japanese-controlled islands.

China's official news agency Xinhua previously reported that the two China Marine Surveillance ships "reached the waters around" the islands Tuesday morning as part of a plan to assert Beijing's claim of sovereignty.

Since then, Chinese state media have been silent on the ships' movements. The Japanese foreign ministry said it cannot confirm the location of the Chinese vessels.

Xinhua's earlier report said the Chinese agency responsible for the ships would "take actions pending the development of the situation." It did not elaborate.

Japan's coast guard has confronted Chinese fisherman and nationalists in the waters of the archipelago several times in recent years.

The Senkaku/Diaoyu IslandsThe Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands
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The Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands
The Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands
Tokyo refers to the disputed islands as Senkaku, while Beijing calls them Diaoyu. The waters around the islands contain rich fishing grounds and potential oil reserves.

Tokyo annexed the archipelago in 1895. Beijing claimed sovereignty over the islands in 1971 and called them part of Chinese territory since ancient times.

China said it sent the government ships to the archipelago in response to the Japanese government's decision to buy some of the islands from a Japanese family that has owned them for decades. Japanese officials said Tuesday the $26 million deal was aimed at keeping the islands under "peaceful and stable maintenance."

The ultranationalist governor of Tokyo had been trying to buy the uninhabited islands since April with the aim of building structures on them. The Japanese central government has pledged to maintain the status quo.

Chinese defense ministry spokesman Geng Yansheng said Tuesday the military is "resolutely opposed" to Japan's nationalization of the islands. He said the Chinese military was "closely watching developments ... and reserves the right to take corresponding measures."

Japanese news agency Jiji quoted "informed sources" as saying the Chinese defense ministry's statement suggests that "hardline" anti-Japanese views are "increasing" within the Chinese military.

Taiwan also claims the disputed islands. It sent a protest note to Japan about the purchase on Tuesday.

Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara raised $18 million from private donations for his failed bid to buy the islands. Speaking Tuesday, he said the money will be kept in a fund until the central government agrees to his proposals to build docks and facilities for Japanese fishermen.

Michael Lipin

Michael covers international news for VOA on the web, radio and TV, specializing in the Middle East and East Asia Pacific. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_Lipin

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Comment Sorting
Comments page of 2
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by: Anonymous
September 11, 2012 11:49 PM
The Islands are not Disputed.It belong to Chinese. The whole Chinese will combat if Japanese touch the Diaoyu Islands with US support.
In Response

by: Anony-mouse
September 12, 2012 2:32 PM
The islands are not disputed WITHIN CHINA. Outside china, it is very obvious that they are very much disputed.

by: laldo from: india
September 11, 2012 11:23 PM
Japan 2.05 billion yen purchase of three uninhabited islands in the East China Sea, until now leased by the government from a Japanese family that has owned them since early 1970s is legitimate & china cant stake claim the islets.Its now for the whole SE Asia countries to be aggressive to stake claims in the SC Seas against China.
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