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Is Okinawa a ‘disputed’ island too?

The big Asia security story of the day is China’s deployment of a garrison to "guard" disputed islands claimed by Beijing in the South China Sea. But as the Financial Times reports, some Chinese nationalists have the eyes on a potentially even more controversial island chain:  In a fiery editorial earlier this month, the Global ...

The big Asia security story of the day is China’s deployment of a garrison to "guard" disputed islands claimed by Beijing in the South China Sea. But as the Financial Times reports, some Chinese nationalists have the eyes on a potentially even more controversial island chain: 

In a fiery editorial earlier this month, the Global Times newspaper urged Beijing to consider challenging Japan’s control over its southern prefecture of Okinawa – an island chain with a population of 1.4m people that bristles with US military bases.

“China should not be afraid of engaging with Japan in a mutual undermining of territorial integrity,” the Communist party-run paper declared.

Major General Jin Yinan, head of the strategy research institute at China’s National Defense University, went even further. He told state radio that limiting discussion to the Diaoyu was “too narrow”, saying Beijing should question ownership of the whole Ryukyu archipelago – which by some definitions extends beyond Okinawa.

The Chinese claim goes back to when the the islands were ruled by the independent Ryukyu kingdom in 15th century: 

Ryukyu kings paid formal tribute to Chinese emperors, a practice allowing lucrative trade that continued even after the kingdom was conquered by a Japanese feudal domain in 1609. Okinawa only officially became part of Japan in 1879.

Okinawa is such an established part of Japanese territory at this point — not to mention home to about 10,000 U.S. marines — that it’s abit hard to imagine this claim becoming a matter of official policy. But it’s unlikely to quiet things down in the East China Sea. 

The big Asia security story of the day is China’s deployment of a garrison to "guard" disputed islands claimed by Beijing in the South China Sea. But as the Financial Times reports, some Chinese nationalists have the eyes on a potentially even more controversial island chain: 

In a fiery editorial earlier this month, the Global Times newspaper urged Beijing to consider challenging Japan’s control over its southern prefecture of Okinawa – an island chain with a population of 1.4m people that bristles with US military bases.

“China should not be afraid of engaging with Japan in a mutual undermining of territorial integrity,” the Communist party-run paper declared.

Major General Jin Yinan, head of the strategy research institute at China’s National Defense University, went even further. He told state radio that limiting discussion to the Diaoyu was “too narrow”, saying Beijing should question ownership of the whole Ryukyu archipelago – which by some definitions extends beyond Okinawa.

The Chinese claim goes back to when the the islands were ruled by the independent Ryukyu kingdom in 15th century: 

Ryukyu kings paid formal tribute to Chinese emperors, a practice allowing lucrative trade that continued even after the kingdom was conquered by a Japanese feudal domain in 1609. Okinawa only officially became part of Japan in 1879.

Okinawa is such an established part of Japanese territory at this point — not to mention home to about 10,000 U.S. marines — that it’s abit hard to imagine this claim becoming a matter of official policy. But it’s unlikely to quiet things down in the East China Sea. 

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy  Twitter: @joshuakeating

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