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Politics & Law

U.S. return of Senkakus to Japan in ’72 upset China, Taiwan

Signing of the Treaty of San Francisco in 1951

China and Taiwan, which are embroiled in territorial disputes with Japan over the Senkaku Islands, opposed the islets’ incorporation into Japan ahead of Okinawa‘s 1972 reversion from the United States, declassified U.S. documents showed Saturday.

In a diplomatic note from 1971, the Taiwanese government “requested the United States to exclude the Senkaku Islands from the reversion of Okinawa to Japan,” according to documents obtained at the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.

The Senkakus are currently administered by the Okinawa city of Ishigaki.

The documents underscore that a fierce territorial row existed in the early 1970s over the Japanese-controlled islets in the East China Sea that are known in China as the Diaoyu and in Taiwan as Tiaoyutai.

When the islets were returned to Japan as part of Okinawa in 1972, the United States recognised Japan’s administrative right over them but withheld the status of sovereignty in consideration of China and Taiwan, saying such matters “should be settled by the parties themselves,” the documents said.

Based on the 1951 San Francisco Peace Treaty, the United States placed Okinawa under trusteeship, exerting legal, legislative and administrative rights until the reversion agreement took force in May 1972.

China and Taiwan began claiming sovereign rights over the islets only after a U.N. body’s studies indicated in 1968 that there may be potentially vast oil reserves in the surrounding seabed.

As the reversion to Japan loomed in the early 1970s, the Chinese and Taiwanese governments began voicing their objections, although they had not yet claimed rights over the territory.

According to the U.S. document, dated June 7, 1971, China started claiming sovereignty over the Senkakus in December 1970 and Taiwan in February 1971.

Japan’s sovereignity over  the islands was formerly and formally recognised by China in the signing of the Treaty of Shimonoseki in 1895, following China’s surrender in the First Sino-Japanese War.

Click here for all stories about Senkaku Islands (Diaoyu Islands)

The Japan Times

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