The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) yesterday confirmed that a private association in Okinawa will be inaugurated as a diplomatic branch office of Taipei's representative office in Tokyo, in a move signifying Taiwan's long-delayed formal recognition of Okinawa as a part of Japanese territory.
Lo Koon-tsan (
Since Taiwan severed diplomatic ties with Japan in 1972, Taipei has only maintained the private Sino-Ryukyuan Cultural and Economic Association to handle bilateral exchanges due to the disagreement over Okinawa's status.
Lo said it will be the country's first establishment of a representative office in Okinawa since 1972, when the Taiwanese government issued a statement to "express dissatisfaction and regret" over the US' unilateral decision to return the US-occupied territory of Okinawa to Japan without any prior consultation with the Taiwanese authorities.
"Thirty years after 1972, Taiwan-Okinawa relations have come into a new phase with strong bilateral personnel and business exchanges taking place, so we have decided to set up a representative office in Okinawa," Lo said yesterday at a ministry press conference.
Asked whether the presence of a representative office in Okinawa signified Taipei's recognition of Okinawa as part of Japanese territory, Lo said only that since 1972 the country "has never denied" that Okinawa belongs to Japan.
The official said that the Japanese and Taiwanese authorities are currently drafting a mutual agreement on the establishment of the representative office in Okinawa, which should be officially inaugurated by the end of the year.
Under a mutual agreement between the US and Japan in 1971, the US Armed Forces-occupied territory of Okinawa and the South-western islands, including the Diaoyutais, was returned to Japan.
The sovereignty of Okinawa and the Diaoyutais has been a sensitive issue for the governments of Taiwan, Japan and China. According to China's version of history, Japan siezed Okinawa from China by force in 1879 while the Qing Dynasty was involved in several wars with other foreign countries.
The ministry official yesterday said that while the government does not deny that Japan has sovereignty over Okinawa, it is indisputable that Taiwan has sovereignty over the Diaoyutais.
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