The unsteady Japan-China relationship may have received another jolt on Saturday, when the mainland opened an online virtual museum detailing its claims to sovereignty over the disputed Diaoyu Island chain.
Japan responded on Monday by demanding that China shut down the website, rejecting yet again Beijing’s claim.
The uninhabited islands in the East China Sea are known as the Senkaku Islands in Japan and the Diaoyutai Islands in Taiwan. Their ownership has long been a matter of dispute between Japan and the mainland as well as Japan and Taiwan.
The new website details Beijing’s legal and historical justifications for sovereignty over the islands. China has claimed ownership since the 14th century while Japan’s claim began in 1895.
The website, which is accessible in Chinese, English, Japanese and French, includes videos, legal documentation and academic resources that support China’s ownership.
Beijing’s mouthpiece Global Times newspaper said on Saturday that the virtual museum would inform viewers of “the ‘ins and outs’ of the islands dispute”, helping them “understand why China has indisputable sovereign rights over the territory.”
In Japan, Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato protested against the new website and demanded that China shut it down, during a press conference on Monday.
Kato repeated the claim that the islands are Japan’s inherent territory, now effectively controlled by Japan. He said China’s unilateral claims regarding the ownership of the islands were completely unacceptable.
It remains clear whether the online Diaoyu Islands museum will affect Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s visit to Japan planned for this month. According to media reports, Wang plans to meet Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi and possibly Japan’s new Prime Minister, Yoshihide Suga, on this visit.
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