The hawkish governor of Tokyo intends to push ahead with a plan to construct port facilities on disputed islands, a move that would inevitably trigger renewed outrage in China.
Allies of Shintaro Ishihara have confirmed that he is demanding that harbour facilities be constructed on the remote islands, which Japan calls the Senkakus but China insists are the Diaoyu islands, along with a lighthouse and a radio transmitter.
The development would be to provide a place of refuge for Japanese fishermen operating in waters around the islands, the officials told Reuters, although the suspicion is that Governor Ishihara is seeking a final showdown to determine ownership of the uninhabited islands.
China has previously stated that it is firmly opposed to any efforts to develop the islands and on Thursday, in an apparent show of force, a fleet of seven warships sailed between two of the islands of the Okinawan archipelago.
A further eight fisheries patrol vessels were also being tracked close to the Senkaku islands.
Responding to a warning from a Japan Coast Guard vessel to respect Japanese territorial waters, the Chinese ships replied that the islands are an inherent part of China and that the fleet was carrying out legitimate public duties.
The simmering recent three-way dispute over the islands – which Taiwan also claims and knows as the Tiaoyutai – was brought to the boil in April when Governor Ishihara announced that he was in talks with the Japanese family that owned three of the four islands in the chain.
Appealing for donations from like-minded citizens, Gov. Ishihara quickly amassed Y1.8 billion (£14.18 million) with which he planned to buy the islands and administer them from Tokyo. He was outflanked in September when the national government purchased the territory for the nation.
The government has attempted to cool the rising tensions with China – which has seen Japanese companies become the targets of rioters in cities across the country – by making no provocative moves concerning the islands. Instead, Tokyo has attempted to open lines of discussion with its counterparts in Beijing.
Undeterred, Ishihara now wants to use the donations he has collected to go ahead with the construction work to underline Japan’s sovereignty over the islands.
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