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Forget Uninhabited Islands: China Sets Its Eyes On Okinawa

Moving beyond the heated debate over the few small, uninhabited islands in the East China Sea that Japan and China have been arguing over since the discovery of oil there, Business Insider reports that many Chinese people are now eyeing a bigger prize they’d like to reclaim: Okinawa.

Using the traditional argument of “If it was part of China in ancient times, it should be part of China today” (the primary logic for many of the military actions over the past 60 years), China has renewed is fervor in recent years for many of its old territories. Moving beyond simple land disputes, though, many scholars are now citing an ancient agreement that put Okinawa and the rest of the Ryukyuan islands under, once part of the Ryukyuan Empire, under fealty to China. The only problem is that the Ryukyuan Empire ALSO swore fealty to Japanese feudal lords due to its precarious position between both countries and the need to maintain neutrality.

The primary document used as a rallying point to say Okinawa should be part of China today is a volume from 1760 on display at the old Imperial College, now a tourist destination. Based on that documentation China is laying claim to Okinawa, despite the fact it has been part of Japan since 1879 and its people are ethnically and culturally more similar to the Japanese.

While most experts do not expect Okinawa to be brought up in the already heated international debate that has been going on for decades over the disputed uninhabited islands it is still proving to be yet one more rallying point for Chinese nationals as both Chinese and Tokyo governments move through their transition periods and cannot back off from one another due to political reasons at this stage.

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