Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba has rebuked the Japanese ambassador to China for publicly making comments that expressed his opposition to Tokyo Gov Shintaro Ishihara's plan to purchase the disputed Senkaku islands.
In comments made in an interview published Thursday in Britain's Financial Times, Ambassador Uichiro Niwa criticized Ishihara's plan, saying it could cause a grave crisis and jeopardize decades of economic relations between Japan and China.
In Tokyo, Gemba told a news conference Friday that Niwa's view was not in line with official government policy, TV Asahi reported. "The change of ownership is a domestic matter that does not concern the international community," Gemba said.
Gemba also told reporters that he had rebuked Niwa and that he had received a letter of apology from the ambassador, along with assurances that he would not make such comments again.
Meanwhile, Ishihara told a separate news conference Friday that Niwa needs to learn more about the history of his own country before making such comments. "He is not qualified to be Japan's ambassador to anywhere," Ishihara said, Jiji Press reported.
Niwa was formerly president of trading company Itochu.
As of June 1, donations to buy the islands had topped 1 billion yen from the private sector and various organizations, the Tokyo metropolitan government said.
The four islands, currently leased by the Tokyo government, belong to a family in Saitama Prefecture, the Kuriharas, who bought them decades ago from descendants of the previous Japanese owners.
Ishihara has not revealed the expected cost of the islands, saying only they would not be “too expensive.”© Japan Today/AFP