Tokyo: The Japanese Government has clinched a deal to buy the Senkaku Islands from their private owners, whose sovereignty has been disputed with China.
It is understood that owners, the Kurihara family, have been paid JPY 2.05 billion (USD 26 million) for three of the five Senkaku Islands, which are known as the Diaoyu Group of Islands in China.
According to the Daily Mail, the move would effectively nationalise the islands and stop China from buying them, which lie 200 miles from the Chinese mainland and 200 miles from Okinawa in Japan.
It comes following months of rising diplomatic tension between the two countries over which has sovereignty over them.
The oil-rich islands in the East China Sea have been heavily disputed by China and Japan.
A Japanese Government official has declined to confirm the deal and said that negotiations were continuing.
Last weekend, Tokyo had sent a team of experts to waters around the islands to survey fishing grounds and possible sites for development.
China responded by calling the reported purchase ‘illegal and invalid’.
“For them to nationalise the Diaoyu islands seriously violates China’s sovereignty and hurts the Chinese people’s feelings,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said.
“I stress again that any of their unilateral acts with the Diaoyu islands are illegal and invalid,” he said.
“China’s determination will not change in terms of safeguarding its territory. China is observing the situation and will take necessary measures to defend its sovereignty,” Lei added.