Officials in E. Taiwan push to change name of Diaoyutai Islands

Dispute in East China Sea stirred up again by Ishigaki City's proposal to change islets' name

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Kuba Jima, an islet among the Diaoyutai Islands

Kuba Jima, an islet among the Diaoyutai Islands (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Local officials in Yilan are calling for the government to change the name of Taiwan's Diaoyutai Islands to the Toucheng Diaoyutai Islands (頭城釣魚台) on Monday (June 8) to counteract the name change proposed by Japan's Ishigaki City.

According to The Asahi Shimbun, the Ishigaki City Government is slated to submit a proposal to its city assembly with the intent to change the administrative designation of the area containing the Diaoyutai Islands from Tonoshiro to Tonoshiro Senkaku. Ishigaki Mayor Yoshitaka Nakayama defended the proposal in an interview with the news agency, saying that the change is meant to streamline administrative work by further dividing the Tonoshiro area, which at present contains both the Diaoyutai Islands and central parts of Ishigaki.

The sovereignty of the East China Sea islets has long been disputed by Taiwan, Japan, and China. In 2012, after the Japanese government nationalized the islands by buying them from their owners, the conflict between the three nations over the maritime assets reached a boiling point, UDN reported.

The Taiwan-Japan Fisheries Agreement signed in 2013 was seen as a temporary solution to secure the rights of Taiwanese and Japanese fishermen in the East China Sea without touching the sensitive issues of the islets' ownership. However, the latest developments have potentially sparked a new round of conflict.

Yilan County councilor Tsai Wen-i (蔡文益) said the Diaoyutai Islands belong to Yilan's Toucheng township and that the Japanese have no right to change the name. He added that the name change affects not only sovereignty but also fishing rights, calling such a decision arbitrary.

The county's magistrate, Lin Zi-miao (林姿妙), swore to visit the islets with supporters in order to place a marker for Toucheng. Democratic Progressive Party Councilor Chen Chun-yu (陳俊宇) suggested that the Japanese government respect Taiwan's voice instead of damaging the precious friendship the two countries had established.

On the other hand, Mayor Nakayama has stated that Ishigaki City's proposed name change is based on an existing system.