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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Islands Claimed By Japan, China, Taiwan And South Korea

Let's take a look at the chain of islands currently under dispute between China and Japan - the Ryukyu Islands.

These volcanic islands - and let's call them Japanese islands - run from the southwest of Kyushu, Japan to Taiwan.

The entire chain of islands and isles are listed as the Nansei Islands (南西諸島, Nansei-shotō) by the Hydrographic and Oceanographic Department of the Japan Coast Guard, and are listed from north to south:
  • Satsunan Islands (薩南諸島, Satsunan-shotō), includes:
  1. Ōsumi Islands (大隅諸島 Ōsumi-shotō), includes: Tanegashima, Yaku, Kuchinoerabu, Mageshima, Takeshima, Iojima, Kuroshima;
  2. Tokara Islands, consisting of Kuchinoshima, Nakanoshima, Gajajima, Suwanosejima, Akeusekijima, Tairajima, Kodakarajima, Takarajima;
  3. Amami Islands consisting of Amami Oshima, Kikiajima, Kakerormajima, Yoroshima, Ukeshima, Tokunoshima, Okinoerabujima, Yoronjima, 
  •  Ryukyu Islands (琉球諸島, Ryūkyū-shotō), includes:
  1. Okinawa Islands, which includes Okinawa Island, Kume, Iheya, Izena, Aguni, Ie (aka Iejima) and Iwo Tori Shima;
  2.  Kerama Islands, which includes Tokashiki, Zamami, Akam Geruma;
  3.  Sakashima Islands (known as the 'Further Isles') including: The Miyako Islands (Miyakojima, Ikema Ogami, Irabu, Shimoji, Kurima, Minna and Tarama), the Yaeyama Islands (Iriomate, Ishigaki, Taketomi, Kohama, Kuroshima, Aragusku, Hatoma, Yubujima, Hateruma, Yonaguni) and the Senkaku Islands claimed by both Taiwan and China, because China also claims Taiwan (Uotsurijima, Kuba Jima, Taisho Jima, Kita Kojima and Minami Kojima).
  • Daito Islands (大東諸島, Daitō-shotō), includes: 
  1. Kita Daitō, Minami Daitō, and Oki Daitō.
Specific to the contention are the Senkaku islands (under the listing of the Ryukyu Islands #3) , which lie about 250 miles EAST of the Chinese mainland, and even closer to Taiwan.

Japan, China, Taiwan and South Korea are all laying claim to them. Sure... they are beautiful... but... there doesn't appear to be any indoor plumbing. I needs my indoor plumbing.
The Senkaku Islands. Impressive. (yawn).
Why? Because all feel it will extend their territorial borders meaning it is in theory supposed to keep other countries farther away from their more important territories, like the mainland.

Right now in 2013, both Japan and South Korea have sent fighter jet planes to the area to try and warn away China from laying claim to the uninhabited islands.

But who does the land belong to? For that, we need a history lesson.
  1. In Japanese history, the southern islands are written about in the year 618AD in something called the Nishonshoki, which talks about the residents of Yaku.
  2. In 629AD, the imperial court of Japan sends a party to Yaku.
  3. In 657AD some people arrive from Tokara to Kyushu, and reported that they had first drifted to Amami Island (part of the Satsunan Island chain).
  4. In 677AD, Japan's imperial court held a banquet for people visiting from Tane Island.
  5. In 679AD, Japan's imperial court sent a mission to Tane Island.
  6. According to an article from the year 682AD, that mission to Tane Island also included some peoples from the southern islands who apparently came from Tane, Amami and Yaku.
Boring stuff, but at least there are records of Japan knowing of these isles.

It was around the 715AD era that the name Southern Islands Nansei-shotō) took over from the term Yaku for the islands.
Proximity isn't everything when there is historical precedence involved.
Now... it was actually in 702AD that the northern part of these islands was added officially to Japan, as Tane-ken. It was merged into Osumi-ken back in 824AD.

The islands were important to Japan only because it was a way to have resting areas for it as a route from Japan to Tang China.

But, it was only after 777AD that Japan began to lose interest in these southern isles, as there was little to be gained financially from them.

The islands get mentioned again throughout history, of course. What archaeological digs have found, is that Korean, Chinese and Japanese pottery is found all over these southern islands.... which means that, at the very least, trade was done, as opposed to outright ownership.

But... here's the thing... Japan seems to have the most interest in these islands over the centuries. In fact... of the southernmost isles - the Ryukyu Islands... Japan and China did invade the Ryukyu kingdom in 1609AD... though it was done withe 13 junk boats and 2500 samurai... which sounds like a joint venture.

The Ryukyu kingdom, in fact, paid tribute to the Japanese Shogun and to the Chinese Emperor.

However, the Ryukyu's themselves decided in 1874 that it need not pay further tribute to China and her government.

In 1879AD, Japan's Meiji government announced the annexation of the Ryukyus, establishing it as Okinawa Prefecture and forcing the Ryukyu king to move to Tokyo.

Here's where it get's interesting. When China signed the Treaty of Shimonoseki after its 1895 defeat in the First Sino-Japanese War, China officially abandoned its claims to the Ryukyus.

After WWII, with the defeat of Japan, the US took military control over Okinawa in 1945, and established the United States Military Government of the Ryukyu Islands.

In 1950, rule over Okinawa became known as the United States Civil Administration of the Ryukyu Islands.

Under the San Francisco Peace Treaty between Japan and the Allied nations, in 1952 the U.S. was formally granted control over Ryukyu Islands south of 29°N latitude, and other Pacific islands.

This is the important thing... control over the Ryukyu Islands - which includes the Senkaku Islands currently under dispute - PLUS the islands south of 29°N latitude - belongs to the U.S.

The Ryukyu Provisional Central Government then became the Government of the Ryukyu Islands which existed from 1952 to 1972. Administrative rights reverted to Japan in 1972.

Now... here's the next most important thing... those same Ryukyu Islands including the Senkaku Islands were given back to Japan in 1972. Not to China. Not to Korea. Not to Taiwan.

These other countries lay claim to it based on some ancient right... but historically speaking, the islands have been a part of Japan since 1879.

But... and here's where I can at least see where China might be miffed... before 1879, the islands belonged unto themselves... until Japan decided to annex them into its own country.

That's like Canada going over to Iceland and saying - okay... many Canadians have visited Iceland for centuries... we've traded with you... given you our porn... now you are a part of Canada.

Iceland didn't have a say in the matter.. and it appears as though neither did the Ryukyu Kingdom. It was simply taken over by Japan back in 1879...

But here's the thing. Japan took it over, but China didn't do anything about it. In fact, after getting its ass kicked in the first China-Japan war (Japan-Sino), China officially relinquished any claims to the Ryukyu Islands.

China and Japan had a war, and in 1895 China lost.

Now... granted in 2013, if China and Japan were to have a war between themselves, China will not lose this one... and perhaps could request and receive control over the Ryukyu Islands once again... but why would it? It's strong enough to take all of Japan. Why the hell would it then need these useless islands?

But we all know that Japan has friends nowadays that it relies upon to help keep the enemies at bay.

Thanks to a war 118 years ago, the Ryukyu Islands - and thus the Senkaku Islands - belong to Japan.

Cheers,
Andrew Joseph

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