On Tuesday morning Osamu Fujimura, Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, confirmed his country had agreed to purchase the islands, called Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, from a Japanese family it claims owns them.Media reports in Japan said the government would pay a total of 2.05 billion yen (£16.4 million) for the islands and that the transfer of their ownership would be completed by the end of this month.
Simultaneously, China’s state-controlled news agency Xinhua reported that two Chinese surveillance vessels had arrived in the region on Tuesday to “assert the country’s sovereignty”. Japanese media said the Japanese Coast Guard was monitoring the vessels.
Japan’s move to “nationalise” the disputed islands escalated a simmering and long-standing feud between the two nations over the territory, which is administered by Japan but also claimed by China and Taiwan.
In a statement issued on Monday, after Japan confirmed plans to buy the islands, China’s foreign ministry warned Tokyo would have to “bear all serious consequences”.
“Long gone are the days when the Chinese nation was subject to bullying and humiliation from others. The Chinese government will not sit idly by watching its territorial sovereignty being infringed upon,” it said.
The statement said Japan’s “so-called ‘purchase'” was “a gross violation of China’s sovereignty over its own territory and is highly offensive to the 1.3 billion Chinese people.”
“It seriously tramples on historical facts and international jurisprudence. The Chinese government and people express firm opposition to and strong protest against the Japanese move,” the statement added describing the move as “totally illegal and invalid”.
On Monday’s China’s prime-minister Wen Jiabao said his country would “never yield an inch” over the islands.
Speaking in Tokyo on Tuesday, Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, Osamu Fujimura, told reporters: “We certainly do not wish the issue to affect our diplomatic relations with China and it is important to resolve any misunderstanding or miscommunication.”
But a strongly-worded editorial in China’s state-controlled Global Times said “the Sino-Japanese relationship will unavoidably deteriorate.”
The Global Times said that Beijing could not rule out a possible “confrontation between China and the US-Japan alliance”. “China should be prepared for the worst,” it said.
Japan’s Tuesday announcement also drew a bellicose response on the internet with thousands messages posted on social media.
“What I most want now is to hear the bugle call of the People’s Liberation Army,” wrote ‘Green Tea Teacher’ on the Tencent microblogging site. “It is the most beautiful sound.”
Another user sounded a more cautious note. “What can we do? Well, I’ll try not buying Japanese goods in the future, at the most.”
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