As the governor of Tokyo plans to buy islands in a disputed part of the East China Sea, Beijing has stated that the plan is illegal and is claiming sovereignty over the region. The East China Sea has been a source of tension between the two countries because of the natural gas fields in the area. Reuters reports:
The islands, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, have long been the centre of maritime territorial disputes between China and neighbours, all citing historical and other claims over fishing areas and potentially rich gas deposits.
Shintaro Ishihara, 79, announced the idea of buying the uninhabited islands in the East China Sea from private owners during his visit to Washington and the Tokyo metropolitan government confirmed the plan on Tuesday.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said in a statement that the islands were China’s, repeating the government’s long-held stance.
“Any unilateral action taken by Japan on the Diaoyu and nearby islands is illegal and invalid and cannot change the reality of China’s ownership,” Liu said.
CNN International has reported that Governor Ishihara has been known to be vocal about territorial issues, and citizens from both countries have been responding to the territorial dispute:
The announcement by the governor, who has been vocal about Japan’s territorial issues in the past, created a stir in the local press.
“We got a lots of calls from citizens, and most of them are supporting the governor’s decision,” said Tatsuo Fuji, a spokesman for the Tokyo government.
But the comments drew a response from users of the popular Sina Weibo microblog service in China.
“We should take actions! Verbal protests have proven to be useless,” wrote a user posting under the pseudonym Laosheng008.
According to AFP, the uninhabited islands currently belong to the Kurihara family.