Tokyo’s outspoken and nationalistic governor yesterday said he was quitting after nearly 14 years in office to form a new political party ahead of expected national elections.
Shintaro Ishihara, who recently played a key role in reviving a bitter territorial dispute with China, told a packed news conference that he wanted to fix the nation’s fiscal and political problems. He blamed the central government and bureaucrats for obstructing policies he believes would benefit the country.
“We must change the inflexible rule of the central government bureaucrats,” he said, comparing their influence to the dictatorial rule of the shogun.
Ishihara, 80, angered China earlier this year when he proposed that Tokyo buy and develop a cluster of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea controlled by Japan, but also claimed by China and Taiwan. The national government responded by buying three of the islands from their private owner, saying it would not develop them.
“I’m returning to national politics by forming a new party with my colleagues,” he said. “What I’m trying to do is everything I’ve been trying to for Tokyo.”
Ishihara is renowned for his outbursts against China, North Korea, foreigners, immigrants, women and even the French language.
He once told reporters he “hates” the US icon Mickey Mouse for not having the “unique sensibility that Japan has.”
Ishihara wrote the 1989 book The Japan that Can Say No, a best-selling paean to ultra-patriotism. He has also tried his hand at screenwriting, authoring the 2007 film I Go to Die for You, which glorified kamikaze pilots who flew suicide missions in the ending months of World War II.
Earlier yesterday, four Chinese government ships spent several hours in territorial waters around the disputed islands for what Japan Coast Guard said was the first time in three weeks.
The move came as Tokyo and Beijing reportedly prepared for talks on a row that has derailed the relationship between Asia’s two largest economies and dented their huge trade ties.
Maritime surveillance vessels began entering the 12-nautical-mile (22.2km) zone around one of the islands shortly after 6:30am, Japan Coast Guard said in a statement.
They remained there for more than seven hours before moving out to so-called contiguous waters, a band that stretches a further 12 nautical miles from shore.
Japanese Vice Foreign Minister Chikao Kawai “strongly protested to the Chinese ambassador by telephone about the Chinese ships’ intrusion into Japan’s territorial waters,” the foreign ministry in Tokyo said in a statement.
In Beijing, foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei (洪磊) said there was nothing abnormal about Chinese ships exercising jurisdiction in the area.