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Cover Stories Series 2013> Monitoring East China Sea Airspace> Archive
UPDATED: January 31, 2011 NO. 6 FEBRUARY 10, 2011
An Illegal 'Pioneering' Day

According to Koubun Betsuroku, a collection of official documents of Japan's Home Ministry, Yamagata reached a decision, based on the reports of Inoue and Nishimura, on December 5, 1885. After reviewing the reports and the Okinawan governor's request to erect markers on the islands, he said the time was not right, as it would involve a dispute over the sovereignty of the islands.

Clearly, prior to the Sino-Japanese War (1894-95), Japan did not feel the time was right to wrest control of the Diaoyu Islands from China.

Island stealing

It is worth noting that Inoue's letter to Yamagata confirmed the following important facts: First, the Japanese Government knew the Diaoyu Islands belonged to China at least nine years before the Sino-Japanese War in the 1890s. Second, prior to the war, Japan postponed an attempt to erect markers on the island, due to Chinese media attention. Third, Japan secretly investigated the Diaoyu Islands for a long time, with the long-term goal of seizing them at a proper time. That's why the Japanese Government was still rejecting the Okinawan governor's request to incorporate the Diaoyu Islands in the Okinawa Prefecture in 1893, a year before the Sino-Japanese War broke out. At that time, Japan was covertly accelerating its war preparation against China and was afraid an argument over the Diaoyu Islands may expose its greater ambitions.

In fact, historical documents show the Japanese military developed a series of war plans as far back as 1887. Japan hoped to complete war preparations before 1892, with the Korean Peninsula, the Liaodong Peninsula, the Shandong Peninsula, the Penghu Archipelago, the Taiwan Island and the Zhoushan Archipelago as some of the targets. Seven years later, in July 1894, and in accordance with this timetable, Japan launched the Sino-Japanese War.

In late November of the same year, Japan occupied the port of Lüshun. On December 4, Japanese Prime Minister Hirobumi Ito said Japan should force China to cede Taiwan to Japan during peace talks. To this end, he decided that military occupation was the best choice.

It was against this backdrop that Japanese Home Minister Yasushi Nomura sent a confidential document to Minister of Foreign Affairs Munemitsu Mutsu, on December 27, 1894. In the correspondence, Nomura said the situation regarding the islands had changed and that it was reasonable to request a new cabinet discussion. On January 11, 1895, Mutsu replied to this letter, expressing his support. The next day, Nomura submitted to the cabinet a confidential document on establishing navigation marks on "Kuba Jima" and "Uotsuri Jima." The document claimed that the islands had long been uninhabited but that recently some people had fished there. The Okinawan governor had again suggested placing the islands under the jurisdiction of that prefecture and this time, Nomura agreed the idea was a good one, according to Koubun Ruijyu, a Japanese official document collection.

On January 14, 1895, as the Sino-Japanese War continued, the Japanese Meiji government passed a cabinet resolution on the Diaoyu Islands. It unilaterally decided to place the islands under the administration of the Okinawa Prefecture and, in this way, Japan secretly stole the islands from China. On April 17 of the same year, China and Japan signed the Treaty of Shimonoseki, which forced China to cede the Taiwan Island and all its affiliated islands, including the Diaoyu Islands, to Japan.

Just as Tadayoshi Murata, a professor with the Yokohama National University, and the late Japanese historian Kiyoshi Inoue pointed out, the "Senkaku Islands" were not part of the Ryukyu Islands, but part of China. Japan took possession of these places in 1895. This was a robbery carried out during the Sino-Japanese War.

Okinawa Prefecture's Ishigaki City recently designated January 14 as the "pioneering" day of the "Senkaku Islands." If the move was due to an ignorance of history, the city assembly should reverse this decision as soon as possible. If this was done deliberately, based on a solid knowledge of the history, it is a poor decision and will not achieve the goal. Instead, this action will help the international community further understand the truth about the sovereignty over the Diaoyu Islands.

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