Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and Liberal Democratic Party chief Shinzo Abe on Sunday stepped up their rhetoric ahead of the general election and agreed to hold a face-to-face debate on the Internet to highlight their policy differences.
Defending the government's "purchase" of the Diaoyu Islands in September, Noda said it was aimed at preventing them from being taken over by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government led by nationalist Gov. Shintaro Ishihara.
Earlier this year, Ishihara announced plans to purchase the disputed islands.
"I thought about what would happen if the Tokyo Metropolitan Government bought the islands. I made a political decision that it would be better for the state to own, maintain and preserve them in a peaceful and stable manner on a long-term basis," Noda said.
He also criticized the LDP's campaign pledge to station civil servants on the islands, saying the measure "would endanger bilateral relations" with China.
Japan's "purchase" in September of three of the five uninhabited islets from the so-called Japanese owner set off violent protests in China and heightened tensions between the two countries.