Go TO Content
That Japan’s Occupation of the Diaoyutai Islands is Illegal is an Historical Fact

A media report of August 19 cited several people who claimed to be baffled by the Republic of China (ROC) government’s on the one hand, proposing the East China Sea Peace Initiative, while on the other provoking Japan by referring to its occupation of the Diaoyutai Islands as illegal. This position distorts historical reality and has misled the public. As such, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs offers the following clarification:

1.The Diaoyutai Islands are part of the sovereign territory of the Republic of China and an island group that is part of Taiwan. A reference was made to the islands in a book Seeing Off with a Favorable Tailwind dating to 1403 during the Ming dynasty. They were also mentioned several times in Records of Imperial Missions to Ryuku written by dozens of envoys sent on investiture missions to the Ryukyu Kingdom by the Ming and Qing courts and who used the islands as a landmark. Official Qing documents, such as Record of Missions to Taiwan and Adjacent Waters (1722) and Recompiled General Gazetteer of Fujian (1871), listed the Diaoyutais as a naval base and strategic transportation hub. The islands are marked as Chinese territory in both Chinese and foreign maps from the 18th and 19th centuries. Numerous historical documents showed that the Diaoyutai Islands were first discovered, named, and used by the Chinese. They were not terra nullius before they were occupied by the Japanese in 1895. According to The Japanese Diplomatic Records of 1885, which have been declassified, the Japanese government had planned to occupy the Diaoyutais, but upon learning that the islands had long ago been discovered, named, and recorded in official documents by China, they decided that they should shelve the plan “until a more appropriate time.” Also at the time, the Shanghai Mercury reported on Japan’s ambitions. When Japan won a decisive victory in the First Sino-Japanese War in October 1894, the Japanese cabinet, on grounds that “the present situation is different from the past,” passed a secret resolution in January 1895 approving the placement of a national marker on the islands by Okinawa Prefecture. Since this decision was conducted in secret and, in contravention of custom, no public imperial decree was made, the outside world was unaware of Japan’s claim that it had occupied the Diaoyutais, as Okinawa did not erect a national marker. The ROC has evidence to support its allegation that Japan secretly and illegally occupied the Diaoyutais while aware that they were Chinese territory; “illegal occupation” is equivalent to “secret occupation.” Such conduct is in violation of international law and is void ab initio. This, then, is what is called a provocation of Japan? If critics believe that these allegations are provocative, do they then agree that Japan’s illegal occupation of this island group of Taiwan is lawful?

2.Furthermore, recent actions by some Japanese people to name individual islands of the Diaoyutai chain, purchase them in private transactions, and nationalize them are one of the main reasons behind rising tensions in the East China Sea. To ease tensions, avert confrontation, and safeguard peace and security in the region, President Ma Ying-jeou proposed the East China Sea Peace Initiative on August 5, calling on all parties to show restraint, resolve disputes in line with both international law and the United Nations Charter’s principle of peaceful settlement of international disputes, and jointly develop resources to advance prosperity in the region. This initiative has gained the affirmation and recognition of several countries and has underscored the ROC’s important role in proactively strengthening regional security. The media report citing criticisms of the peace initiative and discussing it alongside Japan’s illegal occupation of ROC territory not only contradict but also distort reality.

3.The news report also included the baseless comment that “The way the Ministry of Foreign Affairs directly attacked Japan for its illegal occupation of the Diaoyutai Islands was highly inappropriate and disrespectful of the United States.”

As stated above, that Japan illegally occupied the Diaoyutai Islands in 1895 is an indisputable historical fact. Regarding the reversion of the Diaoyutais to Japan along with the Ryukyu Islands in 1972, the United States sent an official note to the ROC on May 26, 1971, stating that Washington’s transferring of administrative rights over these islands did not affect the ROC’s claim of sovereignty over the Diaoyutai Islands. On several occasions since, the U.S. government has publicly stated that it takes no position on the Diaoyutai issue and expressed the hope that the dispute be resolved by concerned parties in a rational, peaceful manner. This indicates that the U.S. remains neutral on the issue and does not support Japan’s position concerning the islands. (E)

No. 205