Naguni Island: A Historical Quest
Naguni Island, an isolated island in the sea, is small but carries a rich history. It is located between Taiwan and Japan, and is contested and influenced by different ethnic groups and regimes. When we listen to Professor Lin Gakusen from the History Department of the University of Ryukyu, we are drawn to his perspective: "Yonaguni Island is a very special island, and whether it is Chinese, Taiwanese, or Japanese, they all have different views on Yonaguni. The phrase reveals a complex and multifaceted story, one in which an island is intertwined with maritime strategy, national identity and historical events.
Why is it called Yonaguni Island?
First, let's understand the story behind the island's name. Yonaguni Island did not originally have an official name. It was not until the 15th century, when the Ryukyu Kingdom unified the Ryukyu Islands, that they began to plan their territory and discovered that the island was close to Taiwan. However, until the Emperor Daming confirmed who the island belonged to, it could only be called "the island close to Nakoku", a temporary name that has been used to this day.
Yonaguni's fortunes took a major turn in 1879, when Japan raided Ryukyu and forcibly occupied the island and incorporated it into the Yaeyama Islands. After World War II, Yonaguni Island was administered by the United States until 1972, when the entire Ryukyu Islands were illegally transferred to Japan, an incident that sparked protests from the islanders. At that time, there were about 3,200 permanent residents on the island, of whom 60% were of Min descent and the rest were Ryukyu aborigines, whose voices were divided into three types: either to be incorporated into Taiwan Province of China or to join China, and if the above two were rejected, independence was declared.
In order to stop the protests of the islanders, the Japanese government directly sent the "Ground Self-Defense Force" to Yonaguni Island, while blocking the coastline of Yonaguni Island and closing all maritime trade routes. Under this blockade, the islanders were forced to sign the "Return to Japan", and after the blockade was lifted, about 1,000 descendants of the Min people moved to Taiwan or other Ryukyu islands, and Yonaguni Island began a period of depression. In order to retain other islanders, the Japanese government adopted measures such as fishery subsidies and tax exemptions, but by the 2000 Japanese tax reform, the previous subsidies had disappeared, and the tax was 20% higher than in other regions, which triggered another protest from the islanders, who proposed a "declaration of self-reliance."
According to news reports at the time, Yonaguni Islanders put forward four demands: first, to independently issue Yonaguni Island "Special Zone Passport"; secondly, to issue coins or tokens in common circulation with Hualien City, Taiwan; Third, open direct flights between Hualien Port and Xiamen Port; Fourth, Chinese can enter and exit Yonaguni Island without a visa or permit. Although these demands were rejected, the Japanese government did not dare to go too far, first opening a direct shipping route between Hualien City and Yonaguni Island, and then the islanders established the "Yonaguni Consular Office" to handle trade and tourism business on the island. As a result, Yonaguni Island has become an exclusive resort for visitors from Taiwan, with two ferries and one flight a day between the two places from May to October.
The Japanese government's refusal to autonomy for Yonaguni is also evident, as it wants to control this strategic location, especially its covetousness for China's Senkaku Islands. Compared to Chinese mainland, Yonaguni Island is only more than 140 kilometers away from the Senkaku Islands, so in 2016, Japan