left corner left corner
China Daily Website

China's ownership clear

Updated: 2012-05-22 08:05
( China Daily)

Japan's claim to the Diaoyu Islands does not hold water, says a commentary in Wall Street Journal on May 3. Excerpts below:

Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara has reignited tensions between China and Japan with his plan for the metropolitan government to buy three of the disputed islands in the East China Sea known as the Diaoyu in Chinese.

The governor's nationalist rhetoric and provocative actions do nothing to resolve the issue, and will make coming confrontations harder to back down from.

The only way to heal the wound once and for all is for the two parties to return to the crux of the problem: the merits of their legal claims.

Tokyo's official position appears to be strong. It claims that since 1885, the Japanese government repeatedly surveyed the islands and found no trace of Chinese control. Having confirmed it was unclaimed land, the government issued a Cabinet decision on Jan 14, 1895 to incorporate them.

However, more than 40 Meiji period documents from 1885-95 in government archives, many of which have never been cited, demonstrate that the Meiji government acknowledged Chinese ownership.

In October 1885, the Japanese foreign minister wrote, "Chinese newspapers have been reporting rumors of our intention of occupying islands belonging to China located next to Taiwan. ... At this time, if we were to publicly place national markers, this must necessarily invite China's suspicion. ..." He then ordered that the matter should "await a more appropriate time" and "should not be made public."

In January 1892, the Okinawa governor wrote, "the opportunity to survey the islands again has not yet arrived".

In May 1894, the Home Ministry wrote, "Ever since the islands were investigated by persons dispatched by police agencies of Okinawa back in 1885, there have been no subsequent field surveys conducted." This was the final relevant correspondence prior to the Sino-Japanese War on Aug 1, 1894.

In December 1894, after China had suffered some devastating defeats in the war, a secret document from Japan's Home Ministry stated, "the situation today has changed significantly since back then."

The Meiji government accordingly incorporated the islands based on a Cabinet decision on Jan 21, 1895, while the war was still underway. This was never made public and remained unknown to China.

In September 1896, Koga Tatsushiro became the first Japanese native to lease the islands. In his biography, he attributed Japan's possession of the islands to "the gallant military victory of our Imperial forces".

These documents clearly show that the islands were Chinese territory obtained as spoils of war. Both the Chinese mainland and Taiwan assert that in 1895, the disputed islands were annexed by Japan due to China's defeat in the first Sino-Japanese War.

According to the Cairo Declaration of 1943 and the Potsdam Declaration of 1945, Japan was required to return all territories previously taken from China.

At a time when the world needs the Chinese and the Japanese to put aside differences and collaborate on common areas of interest, Governor Ishihara's actions are provocative and irresponsible.

(China Daily 05/22/2012 page9)