Evidence shows Diaoyu Dao is China's territory

Updated: 2012-10-15 08:10

By Guo Jiping (China Daily)

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On Sept 10, the Japanese government announced its decision to "purchase" China's Diaoyu Dao and its affiliated Nanxiao Dao and Beixiao Dao in a bid to "nationalize" these islands. In the wake of it, the Chinese government expressed solemn position and adopted strong countermeasures, the Chinese people voiced strong indignation and demonstrated enormous cohesiveness against the Japanese move, and the voice of justice and great alarm was heard in the international community. These have combined to deal a serious blow to the arrogance of the Japanese side. Yet Japan has obstinately refused to correct its erroneous position. On the contrary, it has continued to take unscrupulous steps to infringe upon China's territorial sovereignty and challenge the post-war international order.


"Let's calm the Diaoyu Dao issue. Let's look at the big picture of Japan-China relations. Let peace and stability be maintained in northeast Asia." Such were the rhetoric from Japan. But these ostensibly restrained and constructive gestures could not mask Tokyo's true intent and restlessness. The Japanese government claimed that "we cannot cede what we cannot cede" and that "Japan should make an all-out effort to strengthen its guard over the waters around the Senkaku Islands". Japanese right-wing forces also clamored for the building of facilities on Diaoyu Dao to strengthen Japan's capability to confront China.

On the evening of Sept 21, quite a few Japanese personnel landed on Diaoyu Dao. The next day, right-wing groups staged anti-China protests in Tokyo, claiming that "China has invaded the Senkaku Islands" and crying for "the stationing of Japan Self-Defense Forces on the Senkaku Islands". Besides, Japan Coast Guard assembled patrol vessels from its jurisdictions across Japan to guard the waters around Diaoyu Dao and interfere with routine patrol and protection missions of Chinese maritime surveillance vessels and fishery administration vessels in those waters.

On the occasion of the UN General Assembly session, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda went to great lengths to talk about the so-called "legal evidence" of Japanese sovereignty over Diaoyu Dao and insisted that there is no dispute between Japan and China over the issue. The Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs put together documents under the title "Three Truths about the Senkaku Islands" to summarize Japan's position and instructed Japanese embassies to communicate with their host countries accordingly. The Japanese Foreign Ministry also asked for an additional 600 million yen in its budget of the next fiscal year, which will be used to fund propaganda and research activities for the sake of "defending Japanese territory". Certain Japanese media outlets even resorted to the despicable act of making up stories to create the impression that other countries supported Japan's position.

In fact, not much was new in the "media offensive" Japan has mounted. It was full of clichs such as Diaoyu Dao being inherent Japanese territory based on historical facts and international law, and the goal of Japanese "nationalization" being to "continue its stable and secure management". However, to the extent that there was something new, it was as follows: China had not claimed sovereignty over Diaoyu Dao until the early 1970s; in the 1972 negotiations to normalize diplomatic relations and 1978 negotiations to conclude the China-Japan Treaty of Peace and Friendship, the then leaders of China and Japan did not reach understanding or consensus to "shelve the dispute" over Diaoyu Dao; China's overreaction to the "island purchase" and widespread acts of violence against Japanese interests in China made Japan feel "under threat".

The truth of the matter is: Diaoyu Dao is an integral part of China, and Japan's usurpation of China's Diaoyu Dao is illegal and invalid. Japan's so-called "nationalization" of Diaoyu Dao and its affiliated Nanxiao Dao and Beixiao Dao constitutes serious encroachment on China's territorial sovereignty. This principled position of China has been stated comprehensively in an article titled "How Can Anybody Else Recklessly 'Buy' or 'Sell' China's Diaoyu Dao?", which was run by the People's Daily on Sept 11 under the byline of "Guo Jiping". In the article published today, we will use historical facts and norms of international law to expose the absurdity and sinister nature of the so-called "new points" in Japan's recent propaganda.


Japan said that China had not made a claim of sovereignty over Diaoyu Dao until the early 1970s. But what was the real situation in history?

Diaoyu Dao has been China's inherent territory since ancient times. It was marked as part of Chinese territory and administered as affiliated island of Taiwan as early as in the Ming and Qing Dynasties. At the end of the 19th century, Japan grabbed Diaoyu Dao during the Sino-Japanese War and forced the Qing government to sign the Treaty of Shimonoseki and cede to Japan "the island of Formosa (Taiwan), together with all islands appertaining or belonging to the said island of Formosa". That included Diaoyu Dao. In December 1941, the Chinese government officially declared war against Japan, together with the abrogation of all treaties between China and Japan. In December 1943, the Cairo Declaration stated in explicit terms that "all the territories Japan has stolen from the Chinese, such as Manchuria, Formosa (Taiwan) and the Pescadores, shall be restored to the Republic of China. Japan will also be expelled from all other territories which she has taken by violence and greed." In July 1945, the Potsdam Proclamation stated in Article 8: "The terms of the Cairo Declaration shall be carried out and Japanese sovereignty shall be limited to the islands of Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, Shikoku and such minor islands as we determine." On Sept 2, 1945, the Japanese government accepted the Potsdam Proclamation in explicit terms with the Japanese Instrument of Surrender and pledged to faithfully fulfill the obligations enshrined in the provisions of the Potsdam Proclamation. On Oct 25, 1945, the ceremony for accepting Japan's surrender in Taiwan Province of the China War Theater was held in Taipei, and the Chinese government officially recovered Taiwan. China has all along stressed that Japan should, in accordance with international legal documents such as the Cairo Declaration and the Potsdam Proclamation, return to China all territories it has stolen from China, and that naturally includes Diaoyu Dao.

On Sept 8, 1951, Japan, the United States and a number of other countries signed the Treaty of Peace with Japan (commonly known as the Treaty of San Francisco) from which China was excluded. The Chinese government has always been opposed to such a treaty. Before the treaty was signed, Foreign Minister Zhou Enlai made a solemn statement: "If the People's Republic of China is excluded from the preparation, formulation and signing of the peace treaty with Japan, it will, no matter what its content and outcomes are, be regarded as illegal and therefore invalid by the central people's government." After the treaty was signed, Foreign Minister Zhou Enlai made another statement on Sept 18, 1951: "The peace treaty with Japan, signed arbitrarily by the US government at the San Francisco Conference without participation of the People's Republic of China, is illegal and invalid and could under no circumstances be recognized by the central people's government." The statement made it very clear that China has never recognized any provision of the Treaty of San Francisco regarding Chinese territory. That naturally included Diaoyu Dao. This position of China applies too to subsequent illegal US acquisition of trusteeship and transfer of Diaoyu Dao to Japan following the Treaty of San Francisco. All this serves to show that China's sovereignty claim over Diaoyu Dao is consistent and clear-cut. It has never changed, not even a bit.

In the current round of "media offensive", Japan has tried to play up isolated arguments that are seemingly in its favor. For instance, Japan has repeatedly stressed the point that Diaoyu Dao was marked as part of Japan's Okinawa in the 1958 and 1960 editions of the World Atlas published in China.

Since maps have been mentioned, we also want to devote adequate part of this article to facts related to maps.

The Roadmap to Ryukyu (Liu Qiu Guo Hai Tu) in the Record of the Imperial Title-Conferring Envoys to Ryukyu (Shi Liu Qiu Lu) written by imperial title-conferring envoy Xiao Chongye in 1579 (the seventh year of the reign of Emperor Wanli of the Ming Dynasty), the Record of the Interpreters of August Ming (Huang Ming Xiang Xu Lu) written by Mao Ruizheng in 1629 (the second year of the reign of Emperor Chongzhen of the Ming Dynasty), the Great Universal Geographic Map (Kun Yu Quan Tu) created in 1767 (the 32nd year of the reign of Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty), and the Atlas of the Great Qing Dynasty (Huang Chao Zhong Wai Yi Tong Yu Tu) published in 1863 (the second year of the reign of Emperor Tongzhi of the Qing Dynasty) all marked Diaoyu Dao as China's territory.

The book Illustrated Outline of the Three Countries written by Hayashi Shihei in 1785 was the earliest Japanese literature to mention Diaoyu Dao. The Map of the Three Provinces and 36 Islands of Ryukyu in the book put Diaoyu Dao as being apart from the 36 islands of Ryukyu and colored it the same as the mainland of China, indicating that Diaoyu Dao was considered part of China's territory. Besides, the Maps and Names of Provinces and Cities in Japan published in 1892 did not mark Diaoyu Dao as part of Japanese territory.

The Map of East China Sea Littoral States created by the French cartographer Pierre Lapie and others in 1809 colored Diaoyu Dao, Huangwei Yu and Chiwei Yu the same as the Island of Taiwan. Maps such as A New Map of China from the Latest Authorities published in Britain in 1811, Colton's China published in the United States in 1859, and A Map of China's East Coast: Hongkong to Gulf of Liao-Tung compiled by the British Navy in 1877 all marked Diaoyu Dao as part of Chinese territory.

One particular edition of a map cannot be taken out of its context and used as evidence to reject the position of a government on issues concerning territory. This is common sense. The World Atlas editions cited by Japan that marked Diaoyu Dao as part of Japan's Okinawa clearly identified their sources of reference as being map archives of the pre-Anti-Japanese War Shen-pao (Shanghai News). That was the time when Diaoyu Dao was under Japan's colonial rule. Under international law, a particular edition of a map does not constitute the basis for claiming one's own rights or negating those of others. Therefore, Japan's argument that Diaoyu Dao is Japanese territory on the basis of the map in question is not at all convincing. In fact, many Japanese maps published before the 1970s did not mark Diaoyu Dao as part of Japan.

Japan's manner of treating such untenable evidence like a rare treasure and its attempt to make much out of it shows that Japan has exhausted itself and still could find little legal basis for its sovereignty claim over Diaoyu Dao and its affiliated islands.

Why was Japan put in such an awkward position? It is very clear. A country may dream wild dreams about waging wars of aggression and enslaving the Asian people. A country may develop illusions that it can whitewash its historical crimes with a wrong approach to history and become a "normal country" to be respected by other countries around the world. But in no way can historical facts be fabricated. A country that dares to challenge historical facts is dishonest and extremely dangerous. The international community should really watch out for such a country.


Japan claims that the leaders of Japan and China did not reach understanding and consensus on "shelving the dispute over Diaoyu Dao" during the negotiations for the normalization of bilateral relations in 1972 and the 1978 Sino-Japanese Treaty of Peace and Friendship. Could this be true? For the sake of clarity, let us look at the authoritative historical records, including the minutes of the talks.

It is known to all that it was with the China-Japan Joint Statement (1972) and the Sino-Japanese Treaty of Peace and Friendship (1978) that China and Japan finally ended the state of war and normalized bilateral relations. These two documents formed the bilateral legal basis for the resolution of the postwar ownership of relevant territories between China and Japan.

Under the third item of the China-Japan Joint Statement, which concerns the issue of Taiwan, the Japanese side explicitly committed that "it firmly maintains its stand under Article 8 of the Potsdam Proclamation." It was further confirmed in the Sino-Japanese Treaty of Peace and Friendship that "the principles enunciated in the Joint Statement should be strictly observed." The core of Article 8 of the Potsdam Proclamation referred to in the Joint Statement is that "The terms of the Cairo Declaration shall be carried out." To be more specific, as stated clearly in the Cairo Declaration, "All the territories Japan has stolen from the Chinese, such as Manchuria, Formosa (Taiwan) and the Pescadores, shall be restored to the Republic of China." This was a serious commitment Japan had made to the Chinese side in the form of bilateral treaties. Although it was a commitment made in the context of the issue of Taiwan, it is applicable to the issue of Diaoyu Dao because Diaoyu Dao is Taiwan's affiliated island. It is worth noting that the Cairo Declaration mentioned these territories in the form of non-exhaustive enumeration. What it emphasized was that the territories Japan had stolen from the Chinese through whatever means, be it Taiwan and the Pescadores, which had been formally ceded to Japan through the Treaty of Shimonoseki, or Manchuria, which had been under Japan's actual control through the puppet government, or Chinese territories stolen by Japan through other means, shall all be restored to China. Therefore, even though Japan claimed that Diaoyu Dao was not ceded to Japan in the Treaty of Shimonoseki as Taiwan's affiliated island, Japan could not deny that the island was stolen by Japan from China following the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-1895 and that the island, as such, must be restored to China.

During negotiations for the signing of the China-Japan Joint Statement and the Sino-Japanese Treaty of Peace and Friendship, Chinese and Japanese leaders, acting in the larger interest of bilateral relations, decided not to involve the issue of Diaoyu Dao for the time being and leave it to be resolved later. This, however, does not constitute an excuse for the Japanese side to deny its commitment afterwards. The principle that the postwar ownership of relevant territories should be resolved in accordance with the Cairo Declaration and the Potsdam Proclamation, as enshrined in the China-Japan Joint Statement and the Sino-Japanese Treaty of Peace and Friendship, still applies to the issue of Diaoyu Dao.

At a recent press conference, Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba cited from the conversation between Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka and Premier Zhou Enlai in 1972 about Diaoyu Dao. He said that Japan and China did not reach common understanding on this issue. For the sake of clarification, again, let's read the following, which is the main part of what was really discussed in the conversation:

Prime Minister Tanaka: I wish to take this opportunity to ask about China's attitude towards the Senkaku Islands.

Premier Zhou: I do not want to discuss this issue this time. It is no good discussing it now.

Prime Minister Tanaka: It may make things difficult for me when I go back if I did not mention this issue at all while I was in Beijing.

Premier Zhou: That's right, because oil has been discovered under that part of the sea. Now Taiwan is trying to make a big issue out of it. The United States might do so, too. The issue has been blown out of proportion.

That was where Minister Gemba's citation ended. But in fact, Prime Minister Tanaka went on to say: Alright. There is no need to discuss it then. Let's talk about it sometime in the future.

Premier Zhou: Let's talk about it in the future. This time, let us first resolve the big and fundamental issues that we can resolve, such as the normalization of bilateral relations. It is not that other issues are not "big", but that normalization of relations is pressing. Some issues need to be discussed at a later time.

Prime Minister Tanaka: I believe other issues can be resolved once the relations are normalized.

What issue were they referring to that needed to be resolved? It was quite clear with the then Chinese and Japanese leaders. It was this - the Okinawa Reversion Agreement, signed between the United States and Japan on June 17, 1971, stated that the power of administration over the Ryukyu Islands and other islands shall be returned to Japan, and arbitrarily included Diaoyu Dao and its affiliated islands into the territories to be returned. On Dec 30, 1971, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China issued a statement, stressing that the backroom deals between the United States and Japan over Diaoyu Dao and other islands were completely illegal and could by no means change the People's Republic of China's territorial sovereignty over the Diaoyu Dao Islands. So it was not vague at all what issue needed to be resolved. It was the issue of sovereignty over Diaoyu Dao. Minister Gemba cited only part of the conversation. Was it because he had no access to the full text? Or did he do it on purpose?

In October 1978, Vice-Premier Deng Xiaoping visited Japan for the exchange of instruments of ratification of the Sino-Japanese Treaty of Peace and Friendship. Commenting on the issue of Diaoyu Dao at a press conference following his talks with Japanese Prime Minister Takeo Fukuda, Mr Deng said, "When China and Japan normalized relations, both countries agreed not to involve this issue. When we negotiated the Sino-Japanese Treaty of Peace and Friendship, we also agreed not to deal with this issue. We believe that it is wiser to set the issue aside for a while if we couldn't bridge our difference this time. It is okay to temporarily shelve such an issue if our generation does not have enough wisdom to resolve it. The next generation will have more wisdom, and I am sure they will eventually find a way acceptable to both sides." No one on the Japanese side made any objection on this note.

Mr. Zhang Xiangshan, late advisor to the Chinese foreign ministry, and many others, both in China and Japan, have been personally involved in or witnessed these historical episodes surrounding the negotiations for the normalization of China-Japan relations and the conclusion of the Sino-Japanese Treaty of Peace and Friendship. They have each, in their own way, recounted these historical facts. Their accounts prove that both China and Japan were clear about whether the two countries had reached understanding and consensus on shelving the dispute over Diaoyu Dao.

Japan has proved to be a country that dared to alter and deny authoritative historical records from just a few decades ago. It even dared to change what had been put down in black and white in history. Is there anything Japan dares not do?


Japan has confused right and wrong when it claimed that China has overreacted to Japan's "island purchase" and that China has staged massive acts of violence against Japan, which put Japan under threat.

There are ample historical and legal evidences to prove that the sovereignty over Diaoyu Dao belongs to China. After Japan staged the farce of "island purchase", China issued the Foreign Ministry's Statement and the Statement of the Government of the People's Republic of China on the Baselines of the Territorial Sea of Diaoyu Dao and its Affiliated Islands. Following that, the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National People's Congress, the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, the spokesperson of the Ministry of National Defense and various social groups also issued statements or made remarks against the Japanese move. The entire Chinese nation all voiced condemnation of the despicable act of the Japanese government. China deposited the coordinates table and chart of the base points and baselines of the territorial sea of China's Diaoyu Dao and its affiliated islands with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, and presented the Partial Submission concerning the outer limits of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles in the East China Sea to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf. China's maritime surveillance vessels carried out law enforcement patrol missions in the waters of Diaoyu Dao and Chinese fishery administration vessels conducted routine law enforcement patrols to protect Chinese fishermen in the waters of Diaoyu Dao. These countermeasures are necessary steps taken to uphold China's territorial sovereignty and they embody the strong will and determination of the Chinese nation to safeguard its territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests.

Japan has claimed that China's strong reaction was beyond expectation. We have to ask then: Was Japan fancying a China that would display obedience and react otherwise on an issue that concerns its core interests, which is national sovereignty? The countermeasures taken by China are justified, effective and restrained. Being rooted on the international moral and legal high ground, China's position has been understood and supported by the international community and will stand the test of history.

China has acted in strict accordance with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, and has taken measures to protect the interests of foreign institutions in China in accordance with law. The personnel of Japanese enterprises are safe in China. What has happened are isolated cases. Competent Chinese authorities have made serious investigation into these cases and dealt with them accordingly.

Japan has undeniably committed gross infringement upon China's territorial sovereignty. But it is playing the victim now by accusing China of "putting it under threat". Does this stand to logic? China has never threatened any country, nor will China ever put any country under any threat. However, should any country dare to cross the untouchable red line and harm China's core interests, China will never sit idly by. If Japan is truly afraid of being "threatened", it ought to think hard about how to correct its mistake now before slipping too far down the wrong path.


The Japanese government's announced "purchase" of China's Diaoyu Dao and its affiliated Nanxiao Dao and Beixiao Dao and their so-called "nationalization" is a serious violation of China's territorial sovereignty. The countermeasures taken by China have forcefully demonstrated China's position that sovereignty over Diaoyu Dao belongs to China as well as the legal evidences supporting China's position. They have effectively exposed the very nature of the farce Japan has staged, which is in essence a betrayal of the consensus and understanding reached with China, an outright denial of the outcomes of the World Anti-Fascist War and a challenge to the post-World War II international order.

China strongly urges Japan to face up to the current grave situation of China-Japan relations and recognize that there is dispute over the sovereignty of Diaoyu Dao. Japan should redress the erroneous act of violating China's sovereignty and come back to the track of resolving the Diaoyu Dao issue through negotiations. The Chinese government is firm and solid in its will to uphold China's territorial sovereignty. No one needs to have any illusion about or question China's determination. Diaoyu Dao belongs to China. China stands on the right side of the issue. China is on the side of justice.

The article is a translation of a People's Daily commentary published on Oct 12.

(China Daily 10/15/2012 page9)