Tension between Okinawa, Japan
By Joe Hung
January 2, 2017, 12:00 am TWN
At first, the Kingdom of the Ryuukyus was a tributary state of Ming China (1368-1644). Its kings accepted Chinese investiture and paid a tribute to China. It started in 1372. The Japanese feudal domain of Satsuma invaded Okinawa and took the Ryukyu king hostage, making the kingdom a Japanese tributary state in 1609. Meiji Japan tried to end this unique system of a tributary to two countries by the 1879 annexation of Okinawa. Quite a few Ryukyu nobles went to China as refugees, then, to start a short Okinawan independence movement.
During the Second World War, President Chiang Kai-shek of the Republic of China went to Cairo for a summit with President Franklin D. Roosevelt of the United States and Prime Minister Winston Churchill of Great Britain in 1943. They issued a Cairo Declaration, which stated that Manchuria and Taiwan, along with its appurtaining islands, should be returned to China after the war. Chiang and Roosevelt met on the sides of the Cairo conference to decide what to do with Korea and Okinawa. Chiang recommended that Korea be given independence and Okinawa occupied by the United States until after the Allies decide what to do.
A Unique Cultural Heritage
The movement subsided after 1945. One poll conducted in 2005 by British-Chinese Lim John Chuan-tiong, associate professor of the University of Ryukyu, showed 24.9 percent of the Okinawans supported independence. It dropped to a mere 8 percent last year. This does not mean that the independent identities have been completely lost. Many Okinawans see themselves as a separate Ryukyuan people, ethinically different, with a unique and separate cultural heritage.
With the removal of an American air station from Futenma to Henoko on Okinawa became a sensitive issue and tensions are mounting in Sino-Japanese relations, the independence movement began to pick up a little momentum. The Maritime Self-Defense Force said on Dec. 25, when it detected the presence of six Chinese naval and coastal guards, including the Liaoning aircraft carrier, near Okinawa.
They passed the sea between Okinawa and Miyako to head for the Western Pacific along the coast of eastern Taiwan, while the China's Global Times called for the use of the Ryukyus in place of Okinawa, because the name of Okinawa is tantamount to recognizing Japan's sovereignty over all of the Ryukyu Islands.
Beijing as well as Taipei, both claiming the legitimate succession to the Great Qing Empire, has never recognized the Ryukyu Islands as a Japanese prefecture. Officially, the islands still belong to their vassal state of the Kingdom of the Ryukyus. Negotiations have to be made to settle the issue in accordance with international law, albeit none of the three governments are likely to raise it now.
Nevertheless, there is a remote chance that China, under the squeezing joint containment by the United States and Japan expected to start after Trump is inaugurated on next Jan. 20, may demand dialogue on Okinawa's tributary issue to counteract pressure from Japan and the U.S.