Psychological Warfare: China Now Claims Ownership of Okinawa, Ryukyu Islands


Photo: U.S. Marines move toward boarding an aircraft on the Japanese-owned Island of Okinawa.  Okinawa is part of the Ryukyu island chain.  Photo: EPA

People’s Daily yesterday published a call for a review of Japan’s sovereignty over the island of Okinawa, home to major US bases, with the Asian powers already embroiled in a territorial row.

The article in the Communist Party mouthpiece argued China may have rights to the Ryukyu chain, which includes Okinawa.

Agreements between allied forces during the second world war mean the ownership of the Ryukyu Islands may be in question, the researchers argued in a commentary.

Asked if China considered Okinawa part of Japan, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said scholars had long studied the history of the Ryukyus and Okinawa.

“It may be time to revisit the unresolved historical issue of the Ryukyu Islands,” wrote Zhang Haipeng and Li Guoqiang , of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

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 said the Ryukyus were a “vassal state” of China before Japan annexed the islands in the late 1800s.

“Unresolved problems relating to the Ryukyu Islands have reached the time for reconsideration,” they wrote, citing post-war declarations that required Japan to return Chinese territory.

In Tokyo, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga dismissed the article as “injudicious”.

“They are unmistakably part of our country’s territory. That is a fact accepted historically and by the international community,” he said.

Questions over Japan’s right to Okinawa were probably aimed at raising the stakes in the East China Sea dispute, said Willy Lam, an expert on Chinese politics at Chinese University.

“I think this is psychological warfare,” he said.

“The major point is to put pressure on Japan so that the Japanese administration will be forced to make concessions over the Senkaku [or Diaoyu] Islands.”

Okinawa is the biggest of the Ryukyu Islands, which stretch for about 1,000 kilometres from Japan’s mainland and were the centre of the Ryukyuan kingdom that paid tribute to Chinese emperors until it was absorbed by Japan in 1879. Some Chinese see the historical ties as a basis for sovereignty and dismiss Japan’s possession of the islands as a legacy of its aggressive expansionism that ended in defeat at the end of the war.

Beijing has not made such claims, but state media occasionally questions Japan’s authority.

Agence France-Presse, Bloomberg

Okinawa Island (沖縄本島, Okinawa-hontō?, alternatively 沖縄島 Okinawa-jima; Okinawan: ウチナー Uchinaa; Kunigami: フチナー Fuchinaa) is the largest of the Okinawa Islands and the Ryukyu (Nansei) Islands of Japan, and is home to Naha, the capital of Okinawa Prefecture. The island has an area of 1,201.03 square kilometers (463.72 sq mi). It is roughly 640 kilometres (400 mi) south of the rest of Japan.

The island’s population is known as the longest-lived people in the world; there are 34 centenarians per 100,000 people, which is more than three times the rate in the United States.


Okinawa is part of the Ryukyu island chain and home to major US bases. Photo: EPA

Kadena Air Base is the hub of airpower in the Pacific, and home to the U.S.  Air Force’s largest combat wing — the 18th Wing — and a major location of U.S. Marine Corps troops in the Asia-Pacific region.

Nearly 18,000 Americans and more than 4,000 Japanese employees and contractors make up the U.S. presence on Okinawa. The base’s estimated economic impact upon Okinawa’s economy is more than $700 million annually.

But in recent years, many in Japan have called for the removal of the large U.S. presence in Japan.


From: Russia Today (RT)

China’s leading newspaper has upped the ante in the country’s intensifying territorial dispute with Japan, claiming its high time both sides “re-examine” who has sovereignty over Okinawa – which hosts a massive US military contingent.

The People’s Daily, which serves as the mouthpiece for the ruling Communist party, ran the lengthy commentary questioning the historical status of Japan’s southernmost Ryukyu island chain, which includes Okinawa.


The researchers, hailing from a prominent state-run think tank, argue ownership of the Ryukyus should be considered in light of post-World War II declarations which require Japan to return Chinese territory.

The academics claim the Ryukyus were once a “vassal state of China” before they were absorbed by Japan in the late 1800s during the twilight of the Qing Dynasty.

The researchers also reiterated Chinese government claims over a tiny group of islands in the East China Sea known as the Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in Chinese.

The islands have been a potential flashpoint between the two states over the past several months, with Chinese maritime surveillance vessels sporadically entering Japanese territorial waters following Tokyo’s decision to effectively nationalize the islets last September.

The most recent claims regarding Okinawa’s sovereignty are likely meant to pressure Tokyo over the East China Sea dispute, Willy Lam, an expert on Chinese politics at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, told AFP.

“I think this is psychological warfare,” he said, adding: “The major point is to put pressure on Japan so that the Japanese administration will be forced to make concessions over the Senkaku islands.”

While the daily is often used a barometer on issues both domestic and international for China’s ruling class, the Chinese government has not explicitly endorsed the claims.

When asked about Japanese ownership of Okinawa, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said scholars had long researched the history of the island chain. However, she was equivocal about the “Diaoyu islands”, claiming they “are China’s inherent territory, and have never been part of the Ryukyus or Okinawa.”

The Japanese government was dismissive of the commentary, saying the views expressed were “completely out of the question.” “There’s no doubt that [Okinawa] belongs to Japan historically and internationally,” the Wall Street Journal cites Japanese government spokesman Yoshihide Suga as saying.

Okinawa Island, the largest island in the Ryukyu island chain, currently hosts 32 US military bases including Kadena Air Base – the focal point of US airpower in the Pacific – and the longstanding Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.

With up to 85 percent of Okinawans opposing the US military presence and heightened tensions in the East China Sea, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Wednesday said it was time to consider taking the nation’s security into its own hands.

Speaking before the Japanese Parliament, Abe questioned whether Japan should always have to ask the United States to “attack someone who is threatening to attack us,” before calling on a debate on whether Japan should form its own force which would be modelled on the US Marines, Bloomberg News reports.

Abe has previously vowed to “expel by force” any Chinese landing on the Senkaku Islands.

Okinawa, Naha (Google map)

Okinawa, Naha (Google map)


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