WASHINGTON, April 17 (UPI) -- The Tokyo metropolitan government plans to buy from private owners disputed islands in the East China Sea, Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara said.
The Senkaku Islands, west of Okinawa, are administered by Ishigaki, Okinawa prefecture, and are claimed by China and Taiwan,
Ishihara said in a speech to a Washington think tank Monday the Tokyo government plans to buy the islands to "protect them," the Yomiuri Shimbun reported.
He said a man living in Saitama prefecture who owns three of the islands in the five-island chain has agreed to sell them to the Tokyo metropolitan government.
The government also wants to buy a fourth island in the chain owned by a relative of the owner of the other three.
Ishihara said the islands were returned to Japan from the United States in 1972 and are "the sovereign territory of Japan." He said China later began claiming them, adding, "This is outrageous."
Ishihara said the Japanese central government should have bought the islands.
The central Japanese government had not been informed of the Tokyo metropolitan government's plan to buy the islands, Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said Tuesday.
"The government has maintained contact with the owners [of the Senkaku Islands]," Fujimura said at a new conference. "However, we aren't aware of [the Tokyo metropolitan government's plan]. Whether we'll discuss [the islands with the local government] is a matter to be considered later."