Beijing's insistence that the Senkaku Islands are undisputed Chinese territory is at odds with a diplomatic record drawn up by China in 1950 that indicates they are part of the Ryukyu Islands, the former name of Okinawa.
Sovereignty of the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea is at the center of a tense diplomatic standoff with Japan, which also claims the islands as its territory.
The Senkakus, a group of five uninhabited islets and reefs, are administered by Japan. Four of them are now state property following a government decision in September to purchase three of them from private ownership.
China calls the islands Diaoyu.
Domestic news agency Jiji Press said Dec. 27 it had uncovered a Chinese government document that clearly shows Beijing more than 60 years ago regarded the Senkakus as being part of the Ryukyu Islands.
Since 1971, immediately after natural resources were discovered in the area, Beijing has consistently argued that the islands are part of Taiwan, which China also regards as part of its territory.
Japan's decision to make the Senkakus state property triggered widespread protests across China. Since then, Beijing has presented "historical evidence" to support its territorial claim.
Jiji Press said it acquired an original photocopy of a 10-page document titled "Draft platform on issues and arguments in the parts concerning territories in the peace with Japan."
The document, Jiji Press said, stated that the Ryukyus "consist of three parts--northern, central, and southern. The central part comprises the Okinawa islands, whereas the southern part comprises the Miyako islands and the Yaeyama islands (Sento islets)." The parentheses appear in the original.
The first of the two Chinese characters that mean "Sento" are the same as the first character in "Senkaku." The appellation of "Diaoyu," which Beijing claims to have used consistently since olden times to refer to the islets, never appears in the document.
Lower down, the document says: "It should be studied whether the Senkaku Islands should be incorporated into Taiwan." The name "Senkaku" is used here.
The passages leave no doubt that Beijing regarded the Senkakus as part of the Ryukyus as of 1950.
It was only in December 1971 that Beijing made its first official claim to sovereignty over the Senkaku Islands. It has since reiterated that the Senkakus have been "affiliated islands of Taiwan" since ancient times and are part of territories that should have been returned to China.
Yang Yu, a spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Japan, told a regular news conference in Tokyo on Dec. 27 that the discovery of the document, even if it was true, did not affect Beijing's official stance over the Senkakus issue.
Hua Chunying, a spokeswoman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, also reiterated Dec. 27 that the Senkakus have been an integral part of China for centuries.
"We have sufficient historical and legal grounds for our sovereignty claims to the Diaoyu Islands," she told a news conference.
Separately from the latest discovery, the People's Daily, mouthpiece of the Communist Party of China, said in January 1953 that the Ryukyu Islands comprise seven groups of islands, including the "Senkaku Islands."
(Nozomu Hayashi in Beijing contributed to this article.)
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