Japan has agreed to buy a group of islands disputed with Taiwan and China from their private owners, a government official said yesterday, prompting an angry rebuke from China a day after Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) warned against such an “illegal” move.
Japan aimed to nationalize the uninhabited islands in the East China Sea as soon as possible to control them in a peaceful and stable manner, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said.
The islands, called the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台) in Taiwan, Senkaku Islands in Japan and Diaoyu Islands in China, are near rich fishing grounds and potentially huge maritime gas fields and have been at the heart of long-running territorial disputes between the world’s second and third-largest economies.
The row may now be having an economic impact, intensifying from merely an exchange of rhetoric, with a Chinese official saying Japanese car sales might have been hit in the world’s biggest auto market.
“This is just the ownership of land, which is part of Japan’s territory, moving from one [private] owner to the state and should not cause any problem with other countries,” Fujimura said.
China was firm in its opposition to the “political trend.”
“This is a serious infringement of China’s sovereignty and has seriously hurt the feelings of 1.3 billion Chinese,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “The Chinese government and people express their resolute opposition and protest strongly.”
Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Yang Jiechi (楊潔篪) called in Japanese Ambassador Uichiro Niwa to lodge a strong protest, while Xinhua news agency cited Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶) as saying China would “never yield an inch” of territory.