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Commentary: Japan's "naming" farce can never change China's sovereignty over Diaoyu Islands


by Xinhua writer Shuai Anning

BEIJING, Aug. 2 (Xinhua) -- Japan, in the capacity of a foreign country, has no right to "name" islets that have been part of the Chinese territories since ancient times, and Tokyo's any unilateral move can never change China's sovereignty over them.

The Japanese government on Friday "gave names" to 158 islets, including five that affiliated to China's Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea, in a blatant attempt to claim its sovereignty over the Chinese islets.

The unilateral move of the Japanese government to "name" the five islets is illegal and invalid by both historical facts and international law. And it is yet another provocative act to appease the right-wing forces in Japan, which would only further strain the already tense relations between China and Japan.

In a statement released hours after Japan's unilateral move to "name" the five isles, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said: "China resolutely opposes Japan's move to undermine its territorial sovereignty as the Diaoyu Island and its affiliated islands are China's territory and have been already named by China."

"Japan's unilateral measure is illegal and invalid and cannot change the fact that the Diaoyu Island and its affiliated islands are part of China's territory," the spokesman said.

China-Japan relations have soured since the Japanese government's "purchase" of the Diaoyu Islands in September 2012.

If the logic behind the unilateral move is that whoever first gives a name to a place will own it, then the "naming" farce staged by the Japanese government could only serve to justify China's sovereignty over them, as historical facts show that it is the Chinese that first discovered, named and explored the Diaoyu Islands.

The earliest historical record of the names of Diaoyu Dao (Diaoyu Island), Chiwei Yu and other places can be found in the book Voyage with a Tail Wind (Shun Feng Xiang Song) published in 1403 (the first year of the reign of Emperor Yongle of the Ming Dynasty). It shows that China had already discovered and named Diaoyu Dao by the 14th and 15th centuries.

It was not until 1895 that Japan stole the Diaoyu Islands from China in a war and then forced the Qing court to sign the unequal Treaty of Shimonoseki and cede to Japan the island of Taiwan, as well as the Diaoyu Islands and all other islands appertaining or belonging to Taiwan.

On Dec. 1, 1943, China, the United States and Britain issued the Cairo Declaration, which stated in explicit terms that "all the territories Japan has stolen from the Chinese, such as Manchuria, Formosa (Taiwan), and Pescadores" shall be restored to the Chinese. In international law, the Diaoyu Island and its affiliated islands have been returned to China since then.

On July 26, 1945, the Potsdam Proclamation was issued. Article 8 of the Potsdam Proclamation reaffirmed that "the terms of the Cairo Declaration shall be carried out."

When surrendering to the Allies at the end of WWII, the Japanese government explicitly expressed its full acceptance of the terms of the Potsdam Proclamation.

Therefore, after the end of WWII, China recovered by international law all its territory stolen and occupied by Japan.

The United States administered the islands as part of the United States Civil Administration of the Ryukyu Islands after 1945. In 1971, the United States transferred the administration of the Diaoyu Islands to Japan.

As China and Japan were normalizing relations in the 1970s, the then leaders of the two countries, acting in the larger interest of the China-Japan relations, reached important understanding and consensus on "leaving the issue of Diaoyu Dao to be resolved later."

Although the Diaoyu Islands have been under Japan's administrative control since 1972, in the China-Japan joint statement issued in September 1972, the Japanese government also promised to "earnestly implement Article 8 of the Potsdam Proclamation."

It is not the first time for the Japanese government to illegally "give names" to the Diaoyu Island and its affiliated islets. In March 2012, Japan announced the "names" of 39 uninhabited islands, including seven islets belonging to the Diaoyu Islands.

In the same month, China's State Oceanic Administration published the exact names of 71 islets that include the Diaoyu Island and some of its affiliated islets, as well as their Chinese phonetic spelling and the descriptions of their locations.

In September 2012, Tokyo took a "unilateral move" to "purchase" and "nationalize" the Diaoyu Islands, in an attempt to legalize its act of theft in brazen violation of both the Cairo Declaration and the Potsdam Proclamation.

Japan's unilateral move to "name" the five islets of Diaoyu Islands today is just another attempt to break the world order established by international law, and an illustration of Tokyo's unapologetic attitude towards historical issues.

The provocative move also makes all the more hypocritical Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's repeated calls for a bilateral meeting with Chinese leaders.

The prime minister, on one hand, said both sides needed to return to the basics of a strategic relationship of mutual respect, while on the other has never stopped making provocative remarks and taking illegal and invalid unilateral moves to destroy the mood for improving bilateral relations.

From visiting the notorious Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, where WWII war criminals are honored, to lifting the ban on exercising the right of collective self-defense, to Friday's "naming" of islets, Abe has done all to erect a serious political barrier to the improvement of strained relations with China.

By committing all such provocative acts, the Japanese government has further strained its relations with China and other Asian countries, and undermined regional peace and stability.