The Japanese daily Yomiuri Shimbun reported yesterday that the Japanese government is scheduled to hold a Cabinet meeting on Monday to endorse a proposal to nationalize the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台) starting the following day.
The Diaoyutais, known as the Senkakus in Japan, have been under Japanese control since 1972, but are also claimed by Taiwan and China.
The report said the Japanese government will nationalize the Diaoyutais right after signing a deal to buy three of the five major islets in the chain from their private owner on Tuesday.
Tokyo will reportedly earmark ￥2.05 billion (US$26 million) from a reserve fund in its annual budget to finance the controversial acquisition, the report said.
The media report caused Taiwan to reaffirm its claim to the Diaoyutai Islands yesterday.
“The Diaoyutais are our inherent territories and our sovereignty over the island cluster is undisputable,” said Calvin Ho (何震寰), deputy director-general of the Public Diplomacy Coordination Council under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Japan has cast the deal as an effort to reduce tensions over the disputed island chain, the report said.
While the dispute has been simmering for decades, emotions flared up after Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara proposed in April that his city government buy the islands in order to better safeguard Japan’s claim to the Diaoyutais.
According to the report, Japanese officials have argued that if the central government takes control of the islands, it would not build any structures, but instead would strengthen patrols and other measures to prevent activists from visiting them.
Commenting on the report, Ho said that whatever arguments or measures are taken unilaterally by the Japanese government, it would not change the historical fact that the Diaoyutais belong to Taiwan.
“The ROC’s [Republic of China] sovereignty over the Diaoyutais is indisputable, whether from a geographical, historical or international legal point of view,” Ho said.
He renewed the Taiwanese government’s call for all claimants to exercise self-restraint and respond positively to President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) “East China Sea peace initiative” that advocates shelving differences and working together to explore resources in the region.