Japan protests to China over Okinawa claim

Tokyo, May 9: Japan has lodged a diplomatic protest with China over an article in a state-run publication that challenged Japan's ownership of Okinawa, home to major US bases.

The People's Daily, the mouthpiece of the ruling Communist Party, published a call for a review of Japan's sovereignty over Okinawa on Wednesday, suggesting that Beijing may be the rightful owner.

The call came as the two countries are already at loggerheads over islands in the East China Sea.

A Japanese foreign ministry official in charge of Chinese affairs told media persons "we have protested both in Tokyo and Beijing over the commentary issued by the People's Daily, followed by a Chinese foreign ministry comment".

"We told them that if the Chinese government shares the position of casting doubt about Japan's ownership of Okinawa, we would never accept it and firmly protest at it," he said.

"The Chinese side replied to us that the view in the commentary was solely held by researchers," he added.

Okinawa is home to major US air force and marine bases as well as 1.3 million people, nearly all of whom are Japanese nationals and speak Japanese.

The authors of the article, two scholars at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, considered China's top state-run think-tank, said the Ryukyus were a "vassal state" of China before Japan annexed the islands in the late 1800s.

The article also repeated Chinese government arguments for China's historical claims over a set of tiny uninhabited islets known as Diaoyu in Chinese and Senkaku in Japanese, over which the two sides are squabbling.

Following the article, the Chinese foreign ministry reportedly said "the history of Ryukyu and Okinawa has long called for attention in academia".

The two nations have stepped up a war of words on the Senkakus in recent months, with Beijing's vessels regularly entering the waters around the Tokyo-controlled islands, stoking fears of armed conflict.

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Courtesy:ISTV Imphal


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