Xi Makes First Remarks on Ryukyus, Mentioning China’s ‘Deep Exchange’ with Okinawa

AP file photo
Chinese President Xi Jinping

BEIJING — Chinese President Xi Jinping earlier this month referred to exchanges between China and Ryukyu (Okinawa), in the context of the Senkaku Islands of Okinawa Prefecture.

Hong Kong newspaper Sing Tao Daily wrote on June 8 that the remarks, first published on the front page of the official People’s Daily on June 4, were the first that Xi has publicly made on the Ryukyu Islands since he took office.

Some observers reckon that this was an attempt by the Chinese government to put pressure on Japan as Tokyo intensifies its involvement in the Taiwan issue, which Beijing calls an internal matter.

According to the People’s Daily, during his visit to the national archives earlier this month, Xi was briefed on the Diaoyu Islands (the Chinese name for the Senkaku Islands) in the Ming dynasty. Xi then reportedly said that when he was working in Fuzhou, Fujian Province, he learned that the roots of exchanges with the Ryukyu Islands were deep.

When hard-line arguments against Japan were growing in China in May 2013, triggered by the Japanese government’s nationalization of the Senkakus in the previous year, the People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party, published articles by academics claiming that the status of Okinawa was “unresolved” and suggesting that China had territorial claims over the islands.

Although the latest article does not refer to the possession of Okinawa, one Chinese media source pointed out that it can be seen as a warning that if Japan increases its involvement in the Taiwan issue, which China claims as its own domestic affair, Beijing may bring up the Okinawa question again.