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Japan has been leasing land on another of the five disputed Senkaku Islands near Taiwan in a contract that runs through 2012, in addition to the three others recently reported to be subject to similar leases with the government, officials said Wednesday.

“When Okinawa was reverted (to Japan from the United States) in 1972, privately owned land on Kuba Island was leased (by the Japanese government) so that the island could be used as a firing range of the U.S. military, and that contract has since been renewed,” an official of the Defense Facilities Administration Agency said, adding that he believes the matter was made public at that time.

Kuba is one of the five uninhabited East China Sea islands, known in Japan as the Senkaku chain, that were returned to Japan by the U.S. along with Okinawa in 1972.

The lease on Kuba was made after Japan agreed to let the U.S. use it for military training in May 1972, according to the agency and other officials. It was last renewed in 1992 and runs through 2012.

The agency is paying for the lease but the amount has not been disclosed for reasons of privacy, the officials said.

Kuba and the fifth island, Taisho, which is state-owned, were used by the U.S. forces in Japan until 1978 as bombing ranges following the 1972 agreement between Tokyo and Washington.

Earlier, it was reported that the government has leased three other islands in the group — Uotsurishima, Minami-Kojima and Kita-Kojima — from a private owner in a 22 million yen contract that runs from April 2002 to the end of next March.

The move was reportedly intended to strengthen its control over the islands, since the leasehold will enable the government to prevent the islands’ resale to third parties and block individuals or groups from landing there.

The news sparked protests from China and Taiwan, which both claim the islands.

The dispute over the islands has been brewing on the international stage since a United Nations Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East report suggested in 1968 that there were oil deposits under the East China Sea, according to the International Boundaries Research Unit at the University of Durham in England.

Also known as the Pinnacle Islands in English, the islands are known as Diaoyu in China and as Tiaoyutai in Taiwan.

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