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Ryukyu issue offers leverage to China

(Global Times)

14:21, May 11, 2013

A bylined article published Wednesday in the People's Daily called for the revisiting of the unsolved historical issue of the Ryukyu Islands, the largest of which is Okinawa.

The article stirred strong protest from Japan, with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe saying Tokyo "must voice its position to the world" by rejecting China's "inappropriate claim." The US Department of State expressed support for Japan's sovereignty over Okinawa.

Japan's overreaction toward the suggestion made by two Chinese scholars in State media mirrors its lack of confidence. In 1971, the US unilaterally handed over control of the Ryukyu Islands to Tokyo. There has always been a legal basis to challenge this illegal act.

The Ryukyu Islands, different from the Diaoyu Islands, were not historically part of Chinese territory. They were an independent kingdom that paid tribute to China. It's not that China wants to "recover" the Ryukyu Islands, but it is able to negate the islets' current status.

If Japan ultimately chooses antagonism with China, Beijing should consider changing its current stance and revisit the Ryukyu issue as an unsolved historical problem.

The Ryukyu issue can be reinitiated through three steps. The first is to open up public discussion and studies of the Ryukyu issue, including allowing the founding of related research organizations. Authorities should not directly participate in these activities, but should not oppose them either.

The second, based on Japan's attitude toward China, is for Beijing to decide when to bring up the Ryukyu issue in the international arena. This can be played as a powerful card when necessary.

Finally, if Japan seeks to be a pioneer in sabotaging China's rise, China can carry out practical input, fostering forces in Okinawa that seek the restoration of the independence of the Ryukyu Chain. If Japan, binding itself with the US, tries to threaten China's future, China should impose threats on the country's integrity. This is a fair game.

Japan is the most active provoker in China's international strategic environment. Friendly relations with Japan can barely be realized through China's repeated tolerance. Japan must be forced to give up its role as a political pirate and stop its endless disturbance and confrontation.

China and Japan will engage in a long-term rivalry in the 21st century. However, time is on the side of China, which has been seeking peace in regional dynamics amid its rise.

China doesn't need to worry that bringing up the Ryukyu issue will provide an excuse for external forces to foment separatism in China. As long as significant economic and social setbacks do not take place in the country, the threat of separatism is set to diminish.

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