The Tokyo Metropolitan Government formally filed Wednesday for state approval for its officials to land on the China-claimed Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, hoping to make the trip as early as Aug. 29.
Previous reports said the metro government earlier had applied to go to the uninhabited, Japan-controlled islets in mid-August, but did not specify the date of the visit or who would be landing, and thus the state asked that the request be resubmitted with more details. It is believed the new application, which apparently names some 10 officials in the landing party, will be accepted and the metro government hopes to get the central government’s response by the end of this week.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura told a news conference, “We will consider the application in light of the purpose of the state’s leasing of the islands, which is to ensure their peaceful and stable management.”
Fujimura signaled the government’s readiness to make a decision soon, saying, “Efforts have to be made to respond.”
Friction between Japan and China has been increasing over the islets, called Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China.
On Aug. 15, which marked the 67th anniversary of Japan’s surrender in World War II, Japanese authorities arrested Chinese activists who landed on one of the islets. They were taken to Okinawa, which has technical jurisdiction over the territory, and deported two days later without being charged with illegal entry.
Last Sunday, 10 Japanese, including a metropolitan assembly member, landed on the same islet to demonstrate Japan’s control over the Senkakus.
In April, Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara unveiled a plan for the metropolitan government to buy three of the five Senkaku islets from a Saitama businessman who holds title to the sites.
The central government currently leases four of the five islets from their private-sector owners. The other islet is owned by the state.
If the state green lights the metropolitan government’s application, this will presumably draw an angry response from China. Tokyo also has a festering territorial dispute with Seoul over a clutch of South Korean-held islets about midway between the two nations in the Sea of Japan.
The metropolitan government submitted the initial the Senkaku landing application to the state on Aug. 17, saying it needs to survey the land it plans to purchase.
But the central government kept the application on hold on grounds that the documents were incomplete and lacked details, such as the date of the planned landing and the names of the people who would be going.