The Diaoyutai Archipelago is an inalienable part of ROC territory and this fact must be respected by Japan. At a time when ties between the two nations have never been better, it is awkward for this issue to cast a shadow over other parts of the bilateral relationship that continues to develop in a positive and progressive manner.
There are those in Japan who believe that the Diaoyutais, an uninhabited archipelago located roughly 170 kilometers northeast of Taiwan proper, is not part of the ROC. This misunderstanding has given rise to a number of claims over the 612-hectare island group and seen repeated territorial infringements.
The most serious challenge to date is Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara’s unfortunate plan to purchase three islands in the archipelago and place them under national administration. This proposal is absolutely unacceptable given the ROC exercises full sovereignty over the Diaoyutais.
There is no question that the archipelago, which includes Diaoyutai Island and the islets of Huangwei and Chiwei, is historically attached to the ROC. Records held by Taipei and Beijing confirm that the Diaoyutais were discovered by the Chinese in 1372 and incorporated into China’s maritime defenses in 1556. They also show the islands as being grouped together with Taiwan.
It has been made abundantly clear to Japan on repeated occasions by the ROC government through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Association of East Asian Relations, which oversees Taipei’s relations with Tokyo in the absence of formal diplomatic relations, that not a single inch of national territory in the Diaoyutais will ever be ceded.
This position must be accepted by Japan, with officials addressing the issue in a rational manner while refraining from taking any inappropriate unilateral actions that could have a negative impact on friendly relations between the two countries.
The government’s position on the Diaoyutais remains unchanged: to resolve misunderstandings based on the principles of ROC sovereignty, shelve disputes, build peace and reciprocity, and pursue opportunities for joint development. Japan would be well served to exercise self-restraint and embrace this approach for the ongoing betterment of Taipei-Tokyo relations.