TAIPEI (CNA) — A coalition of patriotic groups rallied in Taipei on Tuesday to reaffirm Taiwan’s sovereignty over the Diaoyutai Islands and protest a reported plan by a Japanese local government to change the islands’ administrative designation.
Some 50 activists held banners and wore headbands that read “the Diaoyutai Islands belong to us (Republic of China, Taiwan)” and rallied outside the Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association, which serves as Japan’s representative office in the absence of formal diplomatic relations.
“To make name changes is tantamount to claiming sovereignty,” said Diaoyutai Education Association Director Chan Che (詹澈). “We are here at the Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association to send a warning to Japan to take us seriously.”
According to Japanese media, the city assembly of Ishigaki, which asserts jurisdiction over the disputed islands, is planning to review a proposal Tuesday on whether to change the administrative zone in which the Senkaku Islands, as they are called in Japan, are located.
The proposal is to change their administrative zone within Ishigaki from Tonoshiro, which also encompasses central parts of the city of Ishigaki, to Tonoshiro Senkaku, the reports said.
Despite concerns that a change could trigger a diplomatic spat, Ishigaki City Mayor Yoshitaka Nakayama defended the proposal, saying the change would streamline administrative work by dividing up the Tonoshiro zone, according to the Asahi Shimbum.
Diaoyutai Education Association Chairwoman Chen Meei-sha (陳美霞) argued, however, that Japan’s true motivation in making the change was to declare sovereignty over an area that does not belong to them.
“It is an act of banditry, which has led to over 50 years of patriotic movements to protect our territory,” she said.
“We believe that most Japanese embrace peace, but the problem lies with a minority of the Japanese people who follow militarism, and we will not allow it.”
After shouting slogans to assert sovereignty over the islands, activists also ripped up a protest letter they had prepared for the Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association when no one from the association came to collect it.
“We are ripping up this protest letter to show that we will take further action,” Chan said.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) spokeswoman Joanne Ou (歐江安) on Tuesday reiterated Taiwan’s sovereignty claim over the islands, and called on the Japanese city not to affect the cordial relations between the two countries because of a local issue.
The uninhabited Diaoyutai Islands in the East China Sea, which lay northeast of Taiwan and west of Japan’s Okinawa Island, have been the focus of a long territorial dispute between the countries.