• Kyodo

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Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian’s government on Wednesday rejected former President Lee Teng-hui’s recent argument that Japan owns the disputed Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.

“The sovereignty over Tiaoyutai should not be questioned,” spokeswoman Catherine Chang told reporters, referring to the Japanese-controlled island group known in Japan as the Senkaku Islands and in China as the Diaoyu.

“The government will protect its land,” she added.

Interior Minister Yu Cheng-Hsien later said Taiwan’s sovereignty over the islands lying 120 nautical miles to the northeast is “unquestionable and indisputable” despite the long-standing dispute involving Taiwan, China and Japan.

In an interview published Sept. 16, Lee reportedly said “the land of the Senkaku Islands belongs to Okinawa, therefore it is a territory of Japan.” The article, published in the Okinawa Times, quoted Lee as adding, “There is no evidence for China’s territorial claim, no matter what it says.”

He said China has no right to claim the islands unless the claim is based on an appropriate international law and its military forces have occupied the land.

The opposition Nationalist Party (KMT), which Lee once led, blasted him, saying history should not be easily distorted considering the number of people who have fought over the land in the past few decades.

“The dispute should be solved based on the international law,” the KMT said.

Meanwhile, the People First Party, a KMT splinter party, accused Lee of betraying the interests of his nation and his people, saying that no individual, including the former leader, should decide on a matter of national sovereignty for the people of Taiwan.

“In this regard, we refuse to further respond to Lee’s volatile words and behavior,” it added.

Lee, who was in power since 1988, was forced to step down as chairman of the KMT after Chen’s Democratic Progressive Party won the March 2000 elections, ending 51 years of KMT rule.

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