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June 23, 2017

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Tension between Okinawa, Japan

Japan seems to worried over the prospect of the People's Republic of China supporting Okinawan independence. The Japan Public Security Bureau, a government agency, pointed out in its annual report that China's universities and think tanks are building ties with independence groups in Okinawa to "split Japan's public opinion" last week. The Chinese want to deepen ties with Okinawa's independence militants to shatter public consensus in Japan.

Taiwan, together with China and Japan, disputes sovereignty over Diaoyutais — known as Diaoyu in China and Senkaku Islands in Japan — which is a small uninhabited archipelago of the Kingdom of the Ryukyus incorporated as a prefecture of the Japanese Empire on Oct. 16, 1872. China, then called the Great Qing Empire (大清帝國), protested, and a treaty on the partition of the Ryukyus chain was later concluded between the two countries. Under the treaty, all the islands north of Okinawa would belong to Japan and those south of the largest island in the chain would remain under control of Qing China. No action was taken to ratify the treaty, however. Shortly afterwards, the First Sino-Japanese War took place and after the war, Taiwan as well as Diaoyutai were ceded to Japan under the peace Treaty of Shimonoseki in 1895. Towards the end of the Second World War, the U.S. marines invaded and occupied Okinawa. The American occupation lasted until the reversion of Okinawa in 1971.

Okinawa's relations with Japan have become increasingly tense in recent years, as Okinawans are dissatisfied with the burden on U.S. military bases in Japan. So far, however, little progress has been made in Okinawa's independence movement, which got under way as soon as the Land of the Rising Sun had surrendered to end World War II.

At first, the Kingdom of the Ryuukyus was a tributary state of Ming China (1368-1644). Its kings accepted Chinese investiture and paid a tribute to China. It started in 1372. The Japanese feudal domain of Satsuma invaded Okinawa and took the Ryukyu king hostage, making the kingdom a Japanese tributary state in 1609. Meiji Japan tried to end this unique system of a tributary to two countries by the 1879 annexation of Okinawa. Quite a few Ryukyu nobles went to China as refugees, then, to start a short Okinawan independence movement.

During the Second World War, President Chiang Kai-shek of the Republic of China went to Cairo for a summit with President Franklin D. Roosevelt of the United States and Prime Minister Winston Churchill of Great Britain in 1943. They issued a Cairo Declaration, which stated that Manchuria and Taiwan, along with its appurtaining islands, should be returned to China after the war. Chiang and Roosevelt met on the sides of the Cairo conference to decide what to do with Korea and Okinawa. Chiang recommended that Korea be given independence and Okinawa occupied by the United States until after the Allies decide what to do.

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