Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) - In another chapter in the long running territorial dispute with Japan, China has sent two marine surveillance ships to "assert the country's sovereignty" over the Diaoyu Islands, known in Japan as the Senkaku Islands, Xinhua said. Administered by Japan, the islands are claimed by both China and Taiwan.
China's marine surveillance agency has "drafted an action plan for safeguarding the sovereignty" of the islands and will "take actions pending the development of the situation."
Similarly, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said the islands were "an inherent part of China's territory" and vowed his country would "never ever yield an inch" on its sovereignty.
The Japanese government said Monday that it planned to acquire the group of small islands from the Kurihara family, a private Japanese owner.
At a meeting Tuesday, it approved the purchase for 2.05 billion yen (US$ 26.2 million), despite Chinese warnings that the act would "illegal and invalid" and that the necessary measures would be taken, sending the two patrol ships being the first one.
The value of the islands remains unclear. They may be important strategically, because they are at a crossroad of important maritime routes. They may also have rich fishing grounds and under the seabed, there may have vast gas reserves.
In 2008, in an act of détente, the two governments signed a deal to conduct joint exploration and research in and around the islands but it was never implemented.
With the Chinese ships reaching the islands, "it is important to avoid misunderstanding and unforeseen development" that might fuel nationalist sentiments in both countries, Japan's Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said.