Former prime minister riles current ministers over Senkakus

Former Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama has expressed some understanding of China’s sovereignty claim to the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, it was learned Tuesday.

In an interview with Hong Kong broadcaster Phoenix Television, Hatoyama said China’s claims that Japan stole the islands from China are understandable.    The remark about the islands in Okinawa Prefecture drew an angry response from Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga. “His remark is totally unforgivable,” he said at a news conference.

It is natural for both Japan and China to believe that they own the uninhabited islands, Hatoyama told the TV network.   He also expressed some understanding of China’s position that the Senkaku Islands are included in territories that the 1943 Cairo declaration accused Japan of stealing and requested their return to China.   Such an interpretation would be reasonable enough from the Chinese perspective, Hatoyama said in the interview.

“I’m too surprised to say anything” Suga said. “He has caused confusion with irresponsible remarks in the past. I want him to act appropriately as a former prime minister.”