Land grab threatens Asia’s island paradise

China has opened another territorial dispute — Okinawa and the Ryuku islands.  What’s next? — PERRY DIAZ

Land grab threatens Asia’s island paradise

By Mark Elliott
Travel Daily Asia



When you think of Asian islands, what immediately comes to mind? Tourists relaxing on white sandy beaches, dipping their toes in the clear blue waters? Or warships encircling rocky outcrops, ready to plant flags in the sand?

For so long the destinations-of-choice for peace-seeking travellers, Asian islands are now becoming somewhat problematic. From the recent invasion of Sabah to the unresolved issues in the South China Sea, there are plenty of potential flashpoints in the region to cause concern.

But an article in China’s state-run People’s Daily newspaper last week, stating that the Japan’s ownership of Okinawa should be investigated, threatens to take it too far. The piece, said to be written by two Chinese scholars, argues that the world should reconsider who is the rightful owner of Okinawa.

“Unresolved problems relating to the Ryukyu Islands (Okinawa) have reached the time for reconsideration,” the article stated.

To an outsider it seems like China is currently throwing out a net in every direction from its coast, claiming every island within its grasp. In a recent appeal to the UN, China tried to claim that the disputed Senkaku Islands belong to China as they form part of its continental shelf. This is like claiming your neighbour’s prize oak tree is yours because some of its roots stretch under the garden fence. And the argument gets even weaker when China then tries to claim another group of islands that lie so close to Malaysia and the Philippines you could almost swim it.

But back to Okinawa. Aside the fact that the Ryukyu Islands visibly stretch down from Japan’s south coast, Okinawa’s 1.3 million people are far more closely related to Japan, historically, ethically and linguistically, than to China. No-one would even consider swapping allegiance.

So why bring it up? Well, because by broadening the island issue to include Okinawa, China may force Japan to concede ground on a smaller matter – the Senkaku Islands. But as always, tensions will increase, trade and tourism will decline, and no-one will be any better off for it.

So let’s just leave cut out the ownership disputes, angry rhetoric and warships, shall we? Asia’s islands are much more pleasant when everyone can enjoy them.

By Mark Elliott, 13 May 2013, Monday 12:01 AM

One Response. Have your say.

  1. albertO says:

    Bullies are only aggressive when they see you cowers. Once you stand your grounds and ready to fight and die for your beliefs they usually stand down.

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