Japanese authorities have decided to buy several privately owned uninhabited islands in the East China Sea that are under control of Japan and also claimed by China, Yomiuri daily reported citing unnamed government officials.
According to the daily, Japan will purchase three of five disputed Senkaku islands, called Diaoyu in China, from the Kurihara family for 2.05 billion yen ($26.1 million).
There is still no sale and purchase agreement, but the Japanese authorities plan to finalize the deal by the end of the month, according to the daily.
Tensions flared between Tokyo and Beijing, after Japan arrested last month 14 Chinese nationals, including activists from Hong Kong, and deported them over a protest landing on Uotsuri, the largest of a group of disputed isles, straining Japan’s ties with China.
The disputed islands in the East China Sea, which are also claimed by Taiwan, lie on a vital shipping route and are surrounded by large hydrocarbon deposits beneath them.
Japan says it has controlled the islands since 1895 until its surrender at the end of World War II. The islands were controlled by the United States from 1945 to 1972 and subsequently returned to Japan’s control. China claims the islands’ discovery and control since the 14th century.
China and Taiwan started to lay claims on the islands in the 1970s when surveys showed the area was rich in hydrocarbons.