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September 26, 2017

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Taiwan voices 'concern' over Tokyo officials' visit

TAIPEI -- Taiwan does not recognize any move by the Japanese government to nationalize the Tiaoyutai Islands and has expressed concern over a visit to the area by Tokyo City government personnel as part of the city's efforts to buy the island chain, a Taiwanese official said Sunday.

"We do not recognize any move that will undermine our sovereignty," Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Steve Hsia told CNA, after it was reported that Japan is finalizing a plan to nationalize the disputed island chain later this month.

Taiwan's representative office in Japan has also expressed "concern" over an inspection visit to a marine area near the islands by a group of staff members from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government on Sunday morning, which was linked to the city's bid to purchase the Tiaoyutais, Hsia said.

He reaffirmed Taiwan's claim over the island chain, known as the Diaoyu Islands in China and as the Senkaku Islands in Japan.

It was reported in the Japanese newspaper Nikkei on Sunday that the Japanese government is finalizing a plan to purchase three of the Senkaku islands from a private owner in mid-September for 2.05 billion Japanese yen (US$26.15 million).

"It is indisputable that we hold sovereignty over the Tiaoyutais," Hsia said in response.

He urged Japanese politicians of the ruling and opposition parties to exercise restraint on the Tiaoyutais issue.

Taiwan, Japan and China have been making competing claims to the Tiaoyutai Islands for several years.

Located in the resource-rich East China Sea, the island chain lies about 100 nautical miles off Taiwan's northeastern tip.

Amid growing tensions in the region, Hsia reiterated that Taiwan will address the dispute with the relevant parties, on the basis of safeguarding sovereignty, shelving differences, pursuing peace and reciprocity and jointly exploring resources in the area.

In a recent flare-up of the territorial dispute, a group of Hong Kong activists' went ashore on the islands in mid-August and were detained by Japanese authorities. The activists were later released.

Following that incident, Japanese lawmakers led a group of activists on a visit to the Tiaoyutais and some of them also went ashore.

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