Communist media suggests Okinawa belongs to China

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An article in a Communist Party newspaper suggesting China has a claim over the Japanese prefecture of Okinawa reflects Beijing’s intention to rattle Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe amid a feud over the Senkaku island chain.

That’s the report from Beijing, where informed sources who say “Beijing believes that a chance came for putting pressure on Japan over the Okinawa issue.” A source close to the party points out the people in Okinawa protested against their state government’s unprecedented move to sponsor a ceremony to mark Japan’s restoration of its sovereignty after its defeat in World War II.

The San Francisco Peace Treaty, which came into force on April 28, 1952, ended the postwar occupation of Japan by the U.S.-led Allies, except for Okinawa and other southern Japan islands. The United States returned Okinawa to Japan in 1972.
In the article published by the People’s Daily, Chinese experts argue that the sovereignty of Okinawa remains unsettled.  Arguments, put forward in Chinese academic circles in the past, against Japan’s sovereignty over Okinawa gained momentum in the wake of the Japanese government’s nationalization of three of the five Senkaku islands in September 2012. Beijing also claims the East China Sea island group as its own, calling it Diaoyu.

The editorial in the People’s Daily came after articles questioning Japan’s sovereign right over Okinawa were published by the World Affairs magazine, affiliated with China’s Foreign Ministry, in March and the Global Times, known for its anti-Japan stance, in September last year. “Because the leadership of President Xi Jinping is believed to have checked the People’s Daily account, it certainly reflects the position of the party and the government,” a Communist Party insider said.

Though the opinion denying Japan’s ownership of Okinawa already has spread through academic and military circles, the leadership has tried to keep it low key out of consideration for Japan.  But now that hard line opposition to Japan has grown due to the Senkaku issue and Abe’s tough stand on China, neither the party nor the Chinese government can silence the academics, a government official said.  Beijing has never claimed Chinese sovereignty of Okinawa since the People’s Republic of China was founded in 1949.

When asked about the People’s Daily article at a press conference, foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying declined to give the government’s position on Okinawa, saying only that the history of Okinawa has been a hot topic in the academic community for a long time. A source familiar with Japan-China relations explained that the Chinese government would be criticized at home if it acknowledged that Okinawa is part of Japan.

The source also noted if Beijing claimed Chinese sovereignty, it would contradict past policy of not denying Japanese ownership and could cause tensions to rise, not only with Japan but also with the United States, which maintains its huge military presence in the Japanese island prefecture.  For that reason, a China specialist says the Chinese government is therefore expected to maintain its “indistinct stance” on Okinawa.

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