HONG KONG — Chinese state-run newspapers began carrying commentaries on Wednesday and Thursday questioning Japan’s sovereignty over the island of Okinawa, the latest sign of growing nationalism and territorial ambitions among a significant sector of China’s elite.
By KEITH BRADSHER
The New York Times
People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party, published an opinion column on Wednesday by two academics who noted that the Ryukyu Islands, of which Okinawa is the most important, for many years had been an independent kingdom that paid tribute to China. Japan took control of the islands in a series of moves through the 1870s, formally annexing them in 1879 and abolishing the local monarchy.
Global Times, a sometimes stridently nationalistic newspaper affiliated with People’s Daily, published a news article on Thursday asserting that questions about Okinawa’s sovereignty could help China in its long-running territorial dispute with Japan over seven uninhabited islands northeast of Taiwan, known as the Senkaku in Japan and the Diaoyu in China and Taiwan.
The Chinese government has not endorsed the idea that Okinawa, the site of extensive American military bases, should be independent of Japan. At a regularly scheduled news conference on Wednesday, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman answered three questions about Okinawa with almost identical language, but did not take a clear position on sovereignty.
“The history of the Ryukyu Islands and Okinawa has long been an academic problem,” the spokeswoman, Hua Chunying, said. “I’m willing to reiterate here that the Diaoyu Islands are China’s inherent territory, and have never been part of the Ryukyu or Okinawa.”
The Japanese government quickly dismissed the People’s Daily column. “It is beyond doubt that it belongs to Japan, and that is the fact historically and internationally, so such an argument is absolutely undignified,” Yoshihide Suga, the chief cabinet secretary, said in a regularly scheduled news conference on Wednesday.
Makiko Inoue in Tokyo and Patrick Zuo in Beijing contributed research.
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