Japan to hire guards for contested islands also claimed by China

Japan’s National Police Agency has asked the government to pay for more than 100 police officers to guard the country’s remote territories, including a group of contested islands that are also claimed by China.

In its budget for the 2020 financial year, the agency requested funds for 159 officers to guard “remote islands,” including the Senkakus, known as the Diaoyu Islands in China.

According to the request, the officers are needed to guard against “armed groups who illegally land” on the remote territories, however the exact monetary figure isn’t specified.

The Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea are fiercely contested by China and Japan. Any move by Tokyo to police them is unlikely to be received well by China.

“China’s position on the Diaoyu (islands) issue is clear and consistent,” China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Geng Shuang said Tuesday. “We hope that our two sides will follow the spirit of the four-principled consensus, earnestly strengthen crisis management and jointly uphold peace and stability in the East China Sea.”

Beijing claims that China’s ownership of the islands goes back hundreds of years, but Tokyo says it has no record of that.

The dispute over the isolated rocks has threatened to turn violent in recent years.

In 2012, attempts by the governor of Tokyo to raise funds to buy the islands for his city sparked furious protests in China. Japanese businesses in China were boycotted or vandalized and some of their citizens were even attacked.

During the dispute, 14 Chinese nationals were arrested by Japan for sailing to the islands and raising the flags of China and Taiwan. Eight years earlier, in 2004, seven Chinese activists were arrested for landing on the islands.

It is incidents like these which Japan’s national police are hoping to counter.

The budget request doesn’t specifically say why the new allocation is needed or where the new police would stay.

The allocation will still need to be approved by Japan’s parliament, the Diet.