Former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, in an interview aired Tuesday, indicated that from Beijing’s point of view, the Japan-held Senkaku Islands are Chinese territory based on the 1943 Cairo Declaration issued by the Allies.
In the interview conducted Monday in Tokyo with Hong Kong’s Phoenix Television, Hatoyama said it was unavoidable that China would state that Japan stole the uninhabited islets in the East China Sea. The program was aired in and outside of China on Tuesday morning.
Hatoyama, 66, who was in power between September 2009 and June 2010 as head of the Democratic Party of Japan, did not run in last December’s general election and is no longer in the Diet.
In September 2012, then-Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, in a speech at the U.N., accused Japan of stealing the islets and “grossly” violating Chinese sovereignty in the process.
Hatoyama’s remarks run against Tokyo’s position that there is no dispute over the ownership of the Senkakus, which were seized by Japan in 1895.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Hatoyama’s remarks were “irresponsible” and “totally unacceptable.”
“I was dumbfounded and at loss for words after hearing those remarks,” Suga told reporters.
Hatoyama’s own Cabinet upheld the same position as the current administration.
“Such remarks by a former prime minister considerably damage the nation’s interests,” Suga said. “I believe the (Japanese) people share the same feeling.”
China says Japan’s ownership of the islets runs counter to the Cairo Declaration, which called for Japan to be stripped of all islands it had seized or occupied in the Pacific since the beginning of World War I in 1914. It also called for Japan to return all territories it had taken from China, including Manchuria and Taiwan, which it seized in 1895.
Hatoyama said he thinks the Senkakus are implied in the Cairo Declaration from China’s view.
Japan maintains that the islets are part of its territory historically and under international law.
Hatoyama said it is natural for both countries to think the islets are theirs, indicating, as he has previously stated, that Japan should admit the existence of the territorial dispute between the two countries. Taiwan also claims the islets.
Hatoyama’s office in Tokyo declined comment on the interview except to repeat that he has urged the government to admit the row exists.