Taiwan said on Tuesday it had recalled its envoy to Japan in protest at the Japanese government’s purchase of disputed islands also claimed by Taipei and Beijing. “We sternly condemn Japan’s nationalising the Diaoyu Islands, which is an illegal action that violates the territorial sovereignty” of Taiwan, said foreign minister Timothy Yang in a statement. “We strongly demand that the Japanese government revokes this move. Japan’s unilateral and illegal action cannot change the fact that the Republic of China owns the Diaoyu islands.”, referring to Taiwan’s official name. Taiwan’s envoy to Japan Shen Ssu-tsun has been instructed to lodge a protest to Tokyo, the statement said, adding he had been called back to report to the foreign ministry on the incident. The state Central News Agency said Shen was expected to return to Taipei on Wednesday while a foreign ministry spokesman was not immediately available for comment. Yang’s comments came as the Japanese government announced it had completed its planned purchase of the islands in the East China Sea known as Diaoyu in Chinese and Senkaku in Japanese. The islands have long been at the centre of a territorial dispute between Japan and China, and recently sparked a major row after activists from both sides sailed to the archipelago last month. Japan arrested 14 activists who sailed to the island from Hong Kong, triggering protests by Beijing and Taiwan, and moved swiftly to deport them. Days later, Japanese activists landed on one of the islands and raised a Japanese flag. The islands, which are around 160 kilometres from Japan’s Okinawan chain and about 200 kilometres from Taiwan, lie on vital shipping lanes, and are believed to be near potentially rich gas fields.