BEIJING – A territorial flare-up between China and Japan intensified as two Beijing-sent patrol ships arrived near disputed East China Sea islands in a show of anger over Tokyo’s purchase of the largely barren outcroppings from their private owners.
The China Marine Surveillance has drawn up a plan to safeguard China’s sovereignty of the islands, and the ships were sent to assert those claims, China’s official Xinhua News Agency said Tuesday. The marine agency is a paramilitary force whose ships are often lightly armed.
The rocky islands, known as Senkaku to Japanese and Diaoyu to Chinese, have been the focus of recurring spats between the countries and also are claimed by Taiwan. The China-Japan dispute has been heating up in recent months, in part because the nationalist governor of Tokyo proposed buying the islands and developing them.
Japan’s central government announced its own deal this week with the Japanese family it recognizes as the owner. Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura told reporters the government budgeted $26 million for the purchase “to maintain the Senkakus peacefully and stably.”
Beijing responded to the move with fury.
“The determination and the will of the Chinese government and military to safeguard their territorial integrity are firm,” Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Geng Yansheng said in a statement. “We are closely monitoring the development of the situation and reserve the right to take necessary measures.”
Japan does not plan to develop the islands, in contrast with the proposal made by Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara.
But Beijing sees the purchase as an affront to its claims and its past calls for negotiations.
The United States urged Japan and China to solve the dispute through dialogue. Japan is a staunch U.S. ally, but Washington says it does not take a position on the conflicting territorial claims.