Image credit: @quchen.
Now that an uneasy peace has sort of settled on the East China Sea after last months dust up over the Diaoyu Islands (angry diplomatic negotiations continue but at least no-one is dying anymore), Chinese nationalists have decided to stick a fork in the works and lay claim to Okinawa, home to 1.3 million Japanese and several US military bases.
The biggest of the Ryukyu Islands, which stretch for about 1,000 kilometres (620 miles) from Japan’s mainland almost to Taiwan, Okinawa was the centre of the Ryukyuan kingdom, which pledged fealty to both Chinese emperors and Japanese feudal lords.
For hundreds of years it paid tribute to China’s Ming and Qing dynasties, until it was absorbed by Japan in 1879.
Ownership of Okinawa has arisen in the past, in an article published by state media in July, PLA Major General Luo Yuan wrote: “The Ryukyu Kingdom had always been an independent kingdom directly under the Chinese imperial government before it was seized by Japan in 1879.”
Japanese and Western observers however point out that the relationship between the Ryukyu Kingdom and the Chinese empire was one of fealty, a smaller vassal state paying tribute to a much larger power; the Kingdom maintained a level of independence and was never absorbed into Chinese territory.
Regardless, the fact that millions of Japanese live in the Okinawan prefecture makes this rather a moot point. International law is clear that in matters of sovereignty, self-determination is the most important factor.