Tokyo raises $1 mn to buy disputed islands

Tokyo has raised almost $1.0 million in donations to buy a small chain of disputed islands, the city's government said Wednesday, after its controversial governor announced the planned purchase last month.

Shintaro Ishihara, an outspoken critic of Beijing who has made a career out of provocative nationalistic remarks, revealed the plan to buy the islands in the East China Sea, sparking an angry reaction from Beijing.

The Japanese capital's government, which started fundraising on Friday, said it has so far pulled in about 76.0 million yen ($947,000) in public donations.

"We will continue the fundraising campaign for the time being," said a Tokyo government official, who added that no target had been set for donations.

"This is a matter of peoples' will, not really a matter of how much we collect," he added.

The small chain of uninhabited rocky islands, called Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, has long been the centre of a damaging territorial dispute between Tokyo and Beijing.

If realised, the purchase would mark a new stage in the long-rumbling dispute over the islands, which sit around 2,000 kilometres (1,250 miles) from Tokyo in rich fishing grounds that may harbour lucrative energy resources.

Ishihara said he had begun negotiations to purchase Uotsurijima, Kitakojima and Minamikojima islands in the uninhabited chain, which is owned by a Japanese family and leased to the Japanese government.

The islands are owned by the Kurihara family who bought them decades ago from descendants of the previous Japanese owners.

Ishihara has not revealed the expected cost to buy the islands, saying only they would not be "too expensive".

The governor unveiled the controversial plan in Washington, saying Tokyo would "defend" the islands.

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