Taipei (Taiwan News)—Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) reiterated sovereignty claims over the disputed Diaoyutai Islands, after U.S. defense secretary James Mattis recently remarked the islands fall under the guidance of a U.S.-Japan security treaty in Tokyo.
The debate over the rightful ownership over the archipelago, which is also known as Senkaku Islands in Japanese, has long been a contentious issue among China, Taiwan and Japan.
During a recent visit to Asia, Mattis, the highest ranking official to visit Japan since Donald Trump’s took office, commented the United States would defend Japan under the U.S.-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation which he said was applicable to the disputed Senkaku Islands.
"I made clear that our long-standing policy on the Senkaku Islands stands -- the U.S. will continue to recognize Japanese administration of the islands and as such Article 5 of the US-Japan Security Treaty applies," Mattis said in a press conference with Japanese Defense Minister Tomomi Inada.
In response to Mattis’s comments, Taiwan’s MOFA stated that its sovereignty over Diaoyutai Islands was undisputable based on location, historical evidence, geological composition, and international law, reported Taipei Times.
The Diaoyutai Islands are affiliated islands of Taiwan that fall under the jurisdiction of Yilan County, stated MOFA in a press release.
Since 1971, the U.S. has restated that its transfer of administration rights of the Diaoyutai Islands to Japan did not involve sovereignty issues, explained MOFA. In an official notification on May 26, 1971, the U.S. government reassured the transfer of administrative rights would not damage Taiwan’s claims over the islands.
When the U.S. government formally ended its civil administration of the Ryukyu Islands in May 15, 1972, it in fact did not transfer sovereignty rights to Japan, added MOFA.
The Diaoyutais or also known as Senkaku Islands was not included in the territory that Japan renounced under Article 2 of the San Francisco Peace Treaty of 1951. Under Article 3 of the treaty, the islands were placed under the administration of the U.S. as part of the Nansei Shoto Islands, according to Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Diaoyutais are geographically located close to the Ryukyu Islands and have traditionally been included as part of the Nansei Shoto Islands.
The Diaoyutais were included in the areas whose administrative rights were reverted to Japan in accordance to the Agreement between Japan and the U.S. Concerning the Ryukyu Islands and the Daoito Islands that was implemented in 1972.
The U.S. congress also explained it would maintain neutrality over any country's sovereignty claims to the Diaoyutais, and its transfer of administrative rights would not hurt such claims.
The Taiwanese government advocates that the Diaoyutais dispute be resolved in a peaceful manner that adheres to the UN Charter and related international laws.