Although the US government does not take sides on the issue of sovereignty of the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台), which are under the administration of Japan, the US only refrained from doing so after Taiwan and China both laid claim to the islands, a US analyst said in Taipei yesterday.
Alan Romberg, director of the East Asia program at the Stimson Center in Washington, addressed issues related to the Diaoyutais and the East China Sea at a symposium held by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Fu Jen Catholic University.
Romberg said that the US initially recognized Japan’s claim to sovereignty over the Diaoyutais, known as the Senkaku Islands in Japan and the Diaoyu in China, but its position changed in the late 1960s.
US administration of the islets began in 1953 after the 1951 San Francisco Peace Treaty with Japan.
“The treaty makes no specific reference to the islets, but there is ample evidence that the US consistently viewed the island group as part of Okinawa,” Romberg said.
Taiwan and China separately asserted their sovereignty claims over the islets in the following years, after a UN study in 1968 indicated the potential for vast oil reserves in the area, Romberg said.
In light of that fact, the US automatically refrained from taking a stance on the sovereignty over the islands and returned only their administrative control to Japan, under the 1971 Okinawa Reversion Treaty, hoping that the dispute could be peacefully worked out among the claimants, he said.
Romberg, a former deputy spokesman of the US Department of State’s policy planning staff, said that he spoke in his capacity as a private citizen.
Immediately after his speech, the moderator of the session, National Security Council Deputy Secretary-General Philip Yang (楊永明) said that there are some issues in the Okinawa agreements over which disagreements exist.
Yang said that the US is more concerned about how the territorial dispute will be resolved than to which country sovereignty over the islands belongs to.
At an earlier session, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) reiterated his position that the 1895 Treaty of Shimonoseki, under which China ceded Taiwan to Japan, was the only legal basis under which Japan held sovereignty over the Diao-yutais from 1985 to 1945, and that the treaty was nullified through the Treaty of Taipei in 1952.