Japan has decided to name several uninhabited islands in a group also claimed by Taiwan and China, a move likely to anger its neighbors.
Japan’s chief government spokesperson said yesterday that the 39 uninhabited islands would be given names by the end of March.
The islands all are within what Japan claims as its exclusive economic zone. However, four of them are in the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台), known as the Senkakus in Japan, which are also claimed by Taiwan and China.
Soichi Yamagata, an official with the Japanese Cabinet office, said the names would be used for new maps. He said the islets are within Japan’s established exclusive economic zone and would not change any maritime boundaries.
He said the move was not intended to stir debate about ownership of the islands. Japan has long claimed the islands as its own.
The islands are surrounded by rich fishing grounds and are regularly occupied by nationalists from both sides.
Ties between Japan and China have been strained for years over the island dispute, a contested gas field in the East China Sea and lingering animosity over Japan’s often brutal World War II-era occupation of China.
In Taipei, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson James Chang (章計平) said the ministry was aware of the media reports and had instructed the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in Japan to look into the matter.
“We will lodge a protest with Japan immediately if the report is verified. We urge Japan to refrain from making such a move to avoid any harmful impact on Taiwan-Japan relations,” Chang told the Taipei Times.
The government strongly opposes any infringement of the nation’s sovereign territory in the form of words or deeds, Chang said.
“The Diaoyutai Islands are the inherent territory of the nation and the islets are administered as part of Toucheng Township (頭城), Yilan County,” he said.
The government has and will continue to handle the issue with the principle that it is willing to set aside disputes over sovereignty to work with other countries to jointly explore resources and promote reciprocity, he said.
“We wish that all parties concerned can work together to contribute to peace and stability in the region,” he said.
Additional reporting by Shih Hsiu-chuan