President Ma: Well, on the East China Sea, for instance, the Diaoyutai or Senkaku [Islands], they were actually discovered and named by the Chinese more than 600 years ago, and during the process, they were used as navigation aids and that included the sea defense of Ming and Ching dynasties, ironically, against the Japanese. There are many historical records, particularly when the kings of the Ryukyus [acceded to the throne], they actually paid tribute to mainland China, to the Ming and Ching dynasties, for almost 500 years. So during the process, there were dozens of special envoys sent by the Ming and Ching courts to officiate their inauguration, so there were [many] historical records on using those islands.[MT: note how in Ma's mind Okinawa is connected to the Senkaku claim -- the Okinawans paid tribute so the Senkakus are part of China. What does that tell you about the views of Ma and similar Chinese nationalists about Okinawa's status? And where they will go next? I hope in the next interview someone will ask his opinion of Okinawa's status? ]
The Japanese actually annexed those islands in 1895 after they had already defeated the armies and the navy of the Ching court at the end of 1894. So when the islands, including Taiwan, were ceded to Japan under the Treaty of Shimonoseki in 1895, these islands were also turned over. That is why after the war, those islands were returned to the Republic of China under not only the Instrument of Surrender but also the Sino-Japanese Peace Treaty of 1952.[MT: check these documents yourself. Think Ma is interpreting them correctly? No one but China claims this. Ma also knows that Japan annexed the islands in Jan of 1895 prior to the Treaty of Shimonoseki in April of 1895. At no time until 1969 did either Chinese government claim the Senkakus were part of China, as I have covered elsewhere and Ampotan also notes in a great post. ]
But the Japanese say that they discovered those islands in 1895 as terra nullius, so we have historical records [that are] quite clear. But, you see, these islands have been in a state of dispute for over 40 years. And for all this historical, uh, territorial dispute, which is associated with natural resources, I think the best way is to shelf the issue and then try to jointly develop resources and to have some kind of sharing. This is probably the best way to settle our disputes.[MT: "state of dispute for forty years". Ma tacitly admits that the dispute is of recent origin -- actually it is related to the announcement of oil there by Japanese scientists. ]
AP: It sounded, to me, though, like you were making a pretty good argument that there is a rightful territorial claim to those islands, and it’s not Japan’s.
President Ma: We believe these islands belong to us. Not only for historical reasons but also for geographical and geological reasons. They are geologically connected with Taiwan. They are separate from the continental shelf of Taiwan and the mainland, away from the Ryukyu Islands [Okinawa]. There is an Okinawa Trough, which could be as deep as 2,717 meters.[MT: Ma's thesis was on the Senkakus.]
On the other hand, geographically they are also closer to Taiwan than to the Ryukyu Islands. If you look at the historical records of Ryukyu, they have only 36 islands, not including the Diaoyutai Islands. Actually, the Japanese name Senkaku means, “pinnacle,” like a church pinnacle. These were actually named by the British sailors in the 16th, 17th century, when they sailed through those islands. The island has a mountain of 383 meters, which is rare in a volcanic island. And that has been used for centuries by sailors as a navigational aid. So we know that island very well; it has been visited many times by Taiwanese fishermen. Near the island there are great fishing grounds.[MT: Geographically the islands are closer to Japanese territory than Chinese, even if you count Taiwan as part of China.]
AP: So does the geological continuity between Taiwan and these islands mean that the Republic of China’s claim to these islands is superior to the claim of the People’s Republic of China to these islands?
President Ma: Yes. These are islands geographically, geologically belonging to the island of Taiwan. Even historical records as early as the 16th century have had records of that. But the problem is, all these historical records were actually used by mainland China and Taiwan together because it’s part of history. [MT: I think he means to say that China and Taiwan together are using the historical
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