TAIPEI: Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou on Monday stressed Taiwan’s claim to the disputed Diaoyutai Islands (known as the Senkaku Islands in Japan and the Diaoyu Islands in mainland China), moving to quell a controversy caused by a former president stating the islands belong to Japan.
In his comments, included in a statement released by the Taiwan Ministry of Foreign Affairs in its Taiwan Today newsletter, Ma said that the Diaoyutai Islands “are an integral part of the ROC [Republic of China],” and that claims to the contrary were against the country’s Constitution, history, and national sovereignty.
“It is an indisputable fact that from the perspective of geography, geology, history and international law, the Diaoyutais are an appendage island group of Taiwan,” Ma said.
Ma’s assertive comments followed those of former president Lee Teng-hui, who during a visit to Tokyo on July 23 offered his opinion that the disputed archipelago, which lies approximately 102 nautical miles (189 kilometers) northeast of Taiwan, actually belongs to Japan.
“Protecting the nation’s sovereignty over the Diaoyutais and fishing rights in the East China Sea is the duty and obligation of a serving or former ROC president,” Ma said. “Lee must correct his misstatement and apologize to the people of Taiwan.”
Although the islands are currently controlled by Japan, both Taiwan and China also lay claim to them.
In defending Taiwan’s claim to the islands, Ma cited Chinese and Japanese historical records recognizing the archipelago’s association with Taiwan. He also pointed out that geographic evidence indicates the island group is an extension of mountain ranges in northern Taiwan, and is separated from the nearest Japanese territory, the Ryuku Islands, by the 2,717-meter deep Okinawa Trench.
“All evidence shows that the ROC holds inalienable sovereignty over the Diaoyutais. Any claims contradicting this fact hurt the people’s feelings and compromise Taiwan’s status as an entity,” Ma said.