The Straits Times
Published on Jan 28, 2013

Japan underestimated China in territorial row: Ex-envoy Uichiro Niwa


TOKYO (AFP) - Japan's government underestimated how China would react to its decision to buy islands at the centre of a bitter territorial dispute, Tokyo's former envoy to Beijing said today.

"I don't know why such a decision was made in a hurried manner and at such a time" Mr Uichiro Niwa told a news conference, speaking of then-Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's September announcement he was buying three of the Senkakus.

Mr Noda's government maintained the purchase was little more than administrative - transferring uninhabited islands in the East China Sea, known as the Diaoyus in China, from a private Japanese citizen to the state.

The administration made no secret of the fact that it was intended to outfox an attempt to buy the islands by the nationalistic then-mayor of Tokyo Shintaro Ishihara, which it judged would be a worse provocation to Beijing.