Japan Plans To Strengthen Maritime Security

Japan plans to deploy new patrol vessels to bolster maritime security around its far-flung islands in the wake of the recent landing of Chinese activists on its Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.

The Land Ministry has decided to seek a budgetary provision of about $130 million in the 2013-14 fiscal to strengthen the country's Coast Guard with a fleet of four new 1,000-ton class patrol vessels and three midsize helicopters, Japanese media reported on Thursday.

The Ministry also proposes to equip patrol boats with video transmission systems so that they can immediately send images of suspicious vessels to the Coast Guard headquarters.

Japanese news outlets reported on Wednesday that the central government had struck a deal to buy the Senkaku Islands from Japanese businessman Kunioki Kurihara.

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. It is currently controlled by Japan and forms part of its Okinawa prefecture. Kurihara owns three of the islands, which is leased to the central government, to "protect" them from Chinese maritime incursions.

The reports citing official sources said the government had concluded an agreement with the Kurihara family by paying it 2.05 billion yen ($26 million) for the islands. The two sides will exchange an official contract on the deal possibly by the end of this month, Kyodo news agency reported quoting "government sources."

Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura told reporters the government and owner of the islands were in talks to make out the deal, but did not divulge its details.

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