Op-Ed Contributors

Sovereignty beyond doubt

By Shi Yan (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-10-11 08:00
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Historical facts, international law show the Diaoyu Islands belong to China and Japan claimed them only last century

The diplomatic crisis between China and Japan, sparked by the collision between a Chinese fishing boat and two Japanese patrol boats, has finally ended with the illegally detained Chinese captain coming home. However, in Japan there are still voices challenging China's sovereignty over the Diaoyu Islands.

In fact, China has indisputable sovereignty over the Diaoyu Islands. There is ample evidence supporting this, both in history and international law.

The Diaoyu Islands have no historical terra nullius status.

In ancient times, there were many Chinese fishermen seeking their livelihood in the Diaoyu Islands and the nearby waters. Ever since the early period of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), the Diaoyu Islands have been clearly included in the territory and maritime defense sector of China and China's sovereignty over the Diaoyu Islands was recognized by Japan until modern times.

No objection was ever raised to Chinese sovereignty over Diaoyu Islands in their national records and histories, or academic essays. Before the middle of the 19th century, various maps published in Japan used the same color to mark China and the Diaoyu Islands.

At the same time, related documents and maps of Britain, France, United States and Spain also showed the Diaoyu Islands belonging to China. One noticeable example is a map made by the British Navy in 1877 - China East Coast: Hong Kong to Gulf of Liau-Tung, which marked the Diaoyu Islands as subsidiary islands of Taiwan Island, and separated them from the islands of Japan. Thereafter this map was used as reference for the signing of Treaty of Shimonoseki.

In January 1895, three months before the Treaty of Shimonoseki was signed between Japan and China, after the latter was defeated in the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-1895, Japan illegally took over the Diaoyu Islands and included them in its Okinawa Prefecture. It cannot be denied that the Diaoyu Islands were ceded to Japan as subsidiary islands of Taiwan in 1895 after the Treaty was signed.

However, in December 1943, leaders of the United States, Britain and China signed the Cairo Declaration, declaring that all the territories that Japan had seized from China should be returned. The Potsdam Proclamation signed by China, the United States and Britain in July 1945 (later adhered to by the Soviet Union) stipulated that: "The terms of the Cairo Declaration shall be carried out".

In August 1945, Japan accepted the Potsdam Proclamation and surrendered unconditionally, which means both documents came into effect.

After World War II ended, China took back its territories stolen by Japan, including Taiwan Island and its subsidiary islands. Therefore as part of the Taiwan Islands, the Diaoyu Islands were returned to China under international law.

However, in 1951, at the peace conference held in San Francisco, the United States and some other allied countries signed the Treaty of Peace with Japan (commonly known as the Treaty of San Francisco), in which Japan unilaterally included the Diaoyu Islands together with Okinawa in US trusteeship.

Zhou Enlai, the then premier and foreign minister of China, solemnly declared on behalf of the Chinese government that this treaty was not signed by China, and was therefore illegal.

On June 17, 1971, Japan and the United States signed the Agreement between the United States of America and Japan Concerning the Ryukyu Islands and the Daito Islands (Okinawa Reversion Agreement in short), according to which Japan assumed "all powers of administration, legislation and jurisdiction" over the Ryukyu Islands. However, they also included the Diaoyu Islands in the reversion, which was illegal and aroused immediate opposition from China.

In December 1971, the Foreign Ministry of China proclaimed this, "an evident violation of Chinese sovereignty and territories, and it would not be tolerated by the Chinese people. The United States and Japan included the Diaoyu Islands in the regions of reversion, but that was illegal, and would never change the sovereignty of the People's Republic of China over the Diaoyu Islands."

The US repeatedly claimed that the reversion was only concerned with administration of the islands, and not the sovereignty, and said it hoped China and Japan could solve their disputes through dialogue.

The Diaoyu Islands have been "under Japanese control" since then, but the Chinese government has never relinquished its legitimate claim to sovereignty and has continued to pursue it through various diplomatic channels.

In February 1992, China issued the Law of the PRC on the Territorial Sea and the Contiguous Zone, of which, Article 2 clearly includes the Diaoyu Islands among Chinese territories.

The challenges to Chinese sovereignty over the Diaoyu Islands violates principles of international law and the historical facts. Chinese sovereignty over the Diaoyu Islands is beyond dispute.

The author works with China Daily.

(China Daily 10/11/2010 page8)