The islets are considered to hold abundant natural gas and oil resources on top of being an important area for international shipping lanes. A long-running and bitter territorial dispute for effective control of the area have placed strain on diplomatic relations between Japan, China and Taiwan, although Japan has consistently brushed these disputes off.
Ishihara’s comments are sure to erode years of diplomatic efforts between Tokyo and Beijing to normalise relations. The 79-year-old politician is infamous for having made controversial remarks in the past, such as denying that the Nanjing massacre ever happened, and that the devastating earthquake and consequent tsunami were divine punishments for Japanese egoism.
Ishihara says that taxpayer money will be used to purchase the islands from private owners. Should the deal push through, he says the governments of Okinawa Prefecture, the city of Ishigaki, and the city of Tokyo will be joint owners of the island chain.