ASAHI SHIMBUN, KYODO, NHK (Japan)

Worldcrunch

TOKYO - The Japanese government has agreed to buy three disputed islands for 2.05 billion yen ($26 million).

The Asahi Shimbun reported on Wednesday that Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's government had struck a deal with private landowners to buy three of the Senkaku islands.

The islands, which are uninhabited, have caused a diplomatic rift between Japan and China, recently who both lay claim to them.

Hong Kong activists last month landed on one of the islands and were subsequently detained, sparking anti-Japan demonstrations in China.

Kyodo news agency reports that the central government is allegedly rushing to buy the islands in an attempt to prevent Tokyo's outspoken Governor Ishihara, who has previously shown interest in buying the islands and has a record of angering Beijing officials, from succeeding in purchasing them. Following Ishihara’s announcement in April that Tokyo would buy the island group, the city’s metropolitan government has received more than 1.4 billion yen ($17 million) in donations from people across Japan.

Kyodo reported that Chinese Foreign Minister Gong Lei said in a statement: "the Japanese action will end in futility," declaring that the move will not hamper Beijing's right to exert sovereignty.

Members of the cabinet are expected to meet sometime in September to finalize plans to nationalize the three islands: Uotsurishima, Kita-Kojima and Minami-Kojima.

Since potentially lucrative gas reserves were discovered there in the 1970’s, the islands have been under Japanese control but claimed by China and Taiwan, which know them as Diaoyu and Tiaoyutai respectively.

NHK reported that Japan launched a team of specialists to inspect the islands on Monday:

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