Robert Dujarric’s May 3 article, “China’s rift with Japan is open challenge to U.S.,” posed a number of important and disturbing points with regard to not only Japan, China and the United States but also to the fact that the tiny islets could provide the spark that might well set off a regional, if not a global, conflagration.
Outside of China and Taiwan, I feel it would be hard to find many knowledgeable people who would not opine that Japan is the rightful owner of the minuscule chain of rocks. In spite of a few arcane references in ancient Chinese writings, the hard facts of history seem to indicate that the Senkaku Islands, initially part of the former Ryukyu Kingdom, have officially been Japanese territory since 1895. This ownership by Japan was further etched in stone when Okinawa Island and other parts of the Ryukyu Islands, including the Senkakus, which were held by the United States following World War II, were formally returned to Japan in 1972.
It was only shortly after this reversion, and the discovery of potential gas and oil deposits near the Senkakus, that China and Taiwan began their claims to the islets, founded on some obscure, 15th-century references to sightings by Chinese seamen. If such claims were to be taken at face value, then the British might also lay claim to the disputed islets, which they called the Pinnacle or Peaks Islands, based on their chartings of the area in the 18th century.
One simple solution to Dujarric’s concern over a possible Chinese landing on the Senkakus — an obvious one that seems to have been overlooked by Tokyo — would be to counter such a threat by immediately stationing a small contingent of Japanese Self-Defense Forces on Uotsuri Island, and then constructing some sort of naval facility. Since the Koga family had a workforce of some 200 people living on that island in the early part of the last century, it would certainly be feasible for Japan to establish a base there.
As possession is said to be 90 percent of the law, if China tried to trespass on legally occupied land, it would do so at its peril.
The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.