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Japan seeks to 'nationalize' islands

By ZHANG YUNBI | China Daily | Updated: 2013-07-16 02:14

With an Upper House election looming this weekend, the Japanese cabinet plans to strengthen territorial claims on hundreds of remote islands in the East China Sea, observers said.

Tokyo will "nationalize" some islands that have no private owners shortly after a survey of islands is completed in 2014, leading Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun quoted an unnamed government source as saying on Monday.

The Japanese government plans to establish a task force to research the ownership and names of around 400 islands, a move described by Agence France-Presse as an attempt to bolster Japan's territorial claims.

The latest move is designed to establish more reference points in territorial waters, and if the islands' ownership is unclear, the government will officially name and nationalize them, the newspaper reported.

Wu Hui, an international law expert at the University of International Relations in Beijing, said if part of these islands falls into the scope of territorial disputes, other countries may lodge serious protests.

"Moreover, a unilateral move to nationalize islands will raise questions over the legitimacy of such a move."

China-Japan relations were greatly damaged after Tokyo illegally nationalized part of China's Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea in September.

As far as Tokyo is concerned, nationalizing controversial remote islands is part of legislative preparations for further claims, Wu said.

The island survey was announced shortly after the Japanese defense authorities indicated that they may "guard and retake" remote islands, analysts said.

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