Dozens of protesters yesterday gathered outside the Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association’s office in Taipei amid reports that the city of Ishigaki in Japan’s Okinawa Prefecture was planning to change the administrative designation of the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台).
The islands — known as the Senkaku Islands in Japan — are a group of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea claimed by Taiwan, China and Japan.
The Liberty Times (sister newspaper of the Taipei Times) yesterday cited Japanese local news reports as saying that a proposal was to be made at an Ishigaki city council meeting to change the administrative designation of the islands from Tonoshiro to “Tonoshiro Senkaku.”
According to an English-language report published on Sunday by the Asahi Shimbun, Ishigaki Mayor Yoshitaka Nakayama defended the proposal in an interview with the paper on Saturday, saying that the change aims to streamline administrative work by further dividing the Tonoshiro area.
The Japanese-language Okinawa Times on Saturday also reported on the proposed name change.
Several groups were represented at the rally in Taipei, including the organizers, the Diaoyutai Education Association, the Taiwan Association for Recovery of the Diaoyutai Islets and Zhong Hua Bao Diao Association, with protesters shouting slogans such as “Diaoyutais are ours,” and “Safeguard sovereignty, protect fishing rights.”
Organizers in a letter of protest said that Japan’s naming or renaming of the islands would be a serious encroachment on Taiwan’s territory, sovereignty and fishing rights.
For generations, the waters surrounding the islands have been a traditional fishing area of fishers based in ports in Yilan County and Keelung — especially those in the Nanfangao (南方澳) fishing harbor — the letter said.
It called on Japan to “reflect on and correct” an aggression toward and annexation of other parts of Asia it said began in the 19th century, and to “completely abolish militarist ideology,” saying that the dispute over the islands still exists because Japan has failed to do so.
The protesters had hoped to deliver the letter to an association official in person, but no one from the association immediately responded to their requests.
Asked about the issue during a news briefing in Taipei, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Joanne Ou (歐江安) said that according to information gathered by the ministry, the council only submitted the proposal yesterday and would vote on the issue on June 22.
The ministry has expressed its serious concern about the matter to Japan, while reiterating Taiwan’s sovereignty over the islands, Ou said.
Taiwan’s sovereignty rights over the islands would not be altered just because another country or its local government renames them, she said.
The nation’s abiding position is that any disputes should be resolved through peaceful means, and Japan and China should restrain themselves to avoid escalating tensions in the region, Ou said.
Taiwan would continue to monitor the situation on the islands and in nearby waters, and would take action to defend its sovereignty and fishers’ rights, she added.
Additional reporting by Lin Chia-nan
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