BEIJING – A Chinese government document from 1950 appears to refute China’s current claim to the Senkakus by indicating the islets are part of Japan’s territory and referring to them by their Japanese name, a just-obtained copy revealed.
In the 10-page document revealed Thursday, China refers to the East China Sea islets by their Japanese name — instead of Diaoyu, as they are now called by Beijing — and describes them as part of the Ryukyu Islands, or modern-day Okinawa.
It is the first discovery of official documentation compiled by the Chinese government showing that China, or the Communist Party, previously acknowledged the Senkakus were under Japan’s jurisdiction, and failing to lay any sort of claim to their sovereignty.
The report runs counter to Beijing’s present assertion — amid its ongoing territorial row with Tokyo — that the islets, which were effectively nationalized by Japan in mid-September, are affiliated with Taiwan and are thus an inherent part of Chinese territory.
Found stored in the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s archives, the document presents a draft outline of problems arising from sovereignty disputes with other nations, as well as China’s contentions tied to a planned peace treaty with Japan.
It was completed on May 15, 1950, about 7½ months after the Communist Party founded the People’s Republic of China. Beijing now argues that the Senkaku Islands have been known as Diaoyu since ancient times, but this appellation is nowhere to be found in the document.
In a section on the demarcation of the Ryukyus, the report refers to the islets by their present Japanese name, stating: “Whether the Senkaku Islands should be incorporated into Taiwan needs to be discussed.”
In addition, in a part covering the planned return of the Ryukyu Islands to Japan’s administration, the Chinese government states that the disputed islets form part of the Ryukyus and refers to them to them by the name “Sento,” as they had been known in Japan for a long time.
According to the document, the Ryukyus comprised three parts, — north, central and south — of which the central area was considered the Okinawa Islands and the southern part “the Miyako Islands and the Yaeyama Islands (Sento).”
The document is “evidence that China’s government at that time regarded the Senkaku Islands as part of the Ryukyus as a matter of course,” University of Tokyo professor Yasuhiro Matsuda said. “The logic behind China’s long-standing claim that the Senkakus are part of Taiwan has now completely collapsed.”
China was considering whether to take part in international meetings to conclude peace treaties with Japan following the end of the war at the time the report was drawn up. In May 1950, China’s Foreign Ministry held internal debates among 63 experts on territorial issues and it appears the newly unearthed document was submitted for discussion.
China declared its sovereignty claim on the Senkaku islet chain in December 1971, after a U.N. commission had reported three years earlier that rich undersea oil deposits may lie beneath their territorial waters. Since asserting its claim, Beijing has consistently argued the isles have been affiliated with Taiwan since ancient times.
The 1950 document has not been made public by Beijing, leading experts to suspect it has been intentionally withheld because it runs counter to China’s current claim to the Senkakus.
Japan incorporated the Senkaku Islands as part of Okinawa in 1895, based on a Cabinet decision. After its defeat in the war, Japan gave up its ownership of Taiwan and certain other islands — but not the Senkakus.
China raised no objections when the islets were placed under U.S. administration based on the 1951 San Francisco Peace Treaty, which formally ended wartime hostilities between Japan and the Allied Powers. The Senkakus, along with other islands in what is now Okinawa, were returned to Japanese control by the 1971 Japan-U.S. pact on Okinawa’s reversion.
When asked about the document’s impact on ties, Suga said “Japan will keep attaching importance to a mutually beneficial strategic relationship (with China).”