Ishihara bid to buy Senkakus has long way to go


Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara will have to jump through a raft of bureaucratic hoops before his plan to buy three of the Senkaku Islands can come to fruition.

When the metropolitan government buys land, it must clarify the purpose of the purchase, according to officials in the Tokyo budget bureau.

If the cost is ¥40 million or more, a panel under the metropolitan government examines whether the price is appropriate, the officials said.

For a tract of 20,000 sq. meters or bigger with a purchase price of at least ¥200 million, approval from the metropolitan assembly is necessary, they said.

In fiscal 2007, the metropolitan government bought private land in Chiba Prefecture for a child care facility. This has been Tokyo’s only land purchase in recent years.

Basically, the metropolitan government decides on land purchases after examining whether the deal will benefit Tokyo residents, the officials said.

A fully convincing explanation will be required if Ishihara presses ahead with the Senkaku purchase plan, a senior official said.

Ishihara earlier this week unveiled the idea of buying three of the five islets in the Senkaku chain in the East China Sea.

In response, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said the central government will consider action, including the possibility of nationalizing the islets, while China, which also claims sovereignty, reacted harshly to Ishihara’s idea.

After a high-profile clash involving a Chinese trawler and Japanese patrol ships near the islands in September 2010, Ishihara said the central government should urge China to clarify the basis for its claim of sovereignty over the islands.

This time around, Ishihara said that “Tokyo will protect the Senkakus” because the central government should buy the islands but has not done so.

Ishihara also referred to the possibility of developing fishery resources in waters around the islands once the metropolitan government buys them. But some metropolitan government officials have voiced skepticism because the islands are too far from Tokyo.

Meanwhile, many metropolitan assembly members are taking a wait-and-see stance while trying to figure out the governor’s true intention and to what extent he is serious about buying the islands.

“Ishihara should explain to Tokyo citizens if taxpayer money is used for the purchase,” said a senior assembly member of the Liberal Democratic Party. “I want to confirm his explanation.”

Noting that Ishihara has long argued for the central government’s ownership of the Senkaku islands, a senior New Komeito member said, “It will be all right if the state decides to buy the islands” acting on Ishihara’s provocation.

Members of the Democratic Party of Japan said they will consider their response by consulting with the party’s national headquarters after confirming the details of Ishihara’s plan.

Ishigaki seeks grant

NAHA, Okinawa Pref.

The Ishigaki Municipal Assembly urged the central government Thursday to purchase the disputed Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea from the landowners and grant them to the city government, which has administrative jurisdiction over them.

The move came after Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara said the metropolitan government is negotiating to purchase some of the isles from the owners by the end of the year.

In its position document approved Thursday, the city assembly said that as it is financially difficult for the local government to buy the islands, the state should grant them to Ishigaki after purchasing them or manage them on its own.