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Japan Nationalizes Disputed Islands In East China Sea

Japan on Tuesday brought three disputed islands in the Senkaku archipelago in East China Sea under state ownership "to maintain and manage them in a peaceful and stable manner."

Nationalization of the islands is also aimed at ensuring safe navigation in its surrounding waters.

The Japanese government decided to spend two billion yen (about $26 million) from reserve funds of the current year's budget to buy the three islands for which a deal had been struck with Japanese businessman Kunioki Kurihara, current owner of the islands.

The Senkaku group of five uninhabited islands is under the administrative jurisdiction of Ishigaki city in Okinawa prefecture. China and Taiwan have also staked claim over the islands.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said transferring the islands' ownership from an individual to the state government should pose no problem to any other country or territory.

Japan does not wish to hurt its broader relationship with China, Fujimora said adding that the government would carefully explain its position to China to avoid any future misunderstanding or contingency involving the Senkaku islands, Japanese media reported.

Fujimura had announced on Monday conclusion an agreement with the Kurihara family on the purchase of the islands by paying it two billion yen (about $26 million). "This is just the ownership of land, which is part of Japan's territory, moving from one (private) owner to the state, and should not cause any problem with other countries," Fujimura told reporters, adding that Tokyo does not want the "Senkaku issue to interfere with Sino-Japanese relations."

But Chinese President Hu Jintao reportedly told Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda on the sidelines of the APEC summit in Russia on Sunday that Japan's move to own the islands was "illegal and invalid."

Outspoken Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara had an eye on the islands since April. But last month he conveyed to Noda the provincial government's willingness to let the central government take ownership of the disputed islands.

The islands, known as Senkaku in Japan, Diaoyu in China and Tiaoyutai in Taiwan, are claimed by all the three countries as the region surrounding them is oil-rich and close to key international shipping routes.

The claim over the archipelago, which consists of five islands and three reefs, has long been a cause of friction between Tokyo and Beijing.

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