Will Tokyo Purchase the Senkaku Islands?

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    chinese map from 1969, indentifying the islands as Japanese

    Tokyo governor Shintaro Ishihara is stirring up trouble again. This time he has announced his intention to have the Tokyo metropolitan government purchase the Senkaku Islands, a move that would effectively make the islands a part of Tokyo:

    “Tokyo has decided to buy the Senkaku Islands. Tokyo is going to protect the Senkakus,” Mr. Ishihara said in a speech in Washington at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. “Would anyone have a problem with an act by the Japanese to protect our own land?”

    The purchase, Mr. Ishihara said, is aimed at preventing China from taking “effective control” of the islands out of Japan’s hands, according to Japanese media reports. He didn’t disclose the value of the purchase, but added that the matter has to be discussed by the metropolitan assembly.

    The islands are currently owned by private Japanese citizens, and are administered as part of Okinawa prefecture. The central government leases the islands for about $300,000 a year. If Tokyo bought the islands, it could eventually earn enough to pay back the cost of such an investment.

    However, it is unclear how spending a lot of tax money to make the islands part of Tokyo would make them more secure from foreign aggression. Maybe Ishihara fears that Okinawan voters could one day turn against the idea of defending all Japanese territory? Maybe he fears that the current owners of the islands could one day decide to sell them to China? Or maybe he just wants to get some attention from the media?

    Ishihara’s plan is bound to spark anger in China. Although the Chinese government has only claimed the islands since oil was discovered in the area in the 1970s, Chinese nationalists are convinced that their claim is legitimate.

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