This page was created by Hiroko Matsuda. 

Bodies and Structures 2.0: Deep-Mapping Modern East Asian History

The Archipelago Divided

China protested Japan's annexation of the Ryûkyûs, but Japan justified its actions by insisting that the Ryûkyûs had been under the control of the Shimazu clan since the early 17th century. In order to prevent this territorial issue from devolving into armed conflict, both governments ought the arbitration of former American president Ulysses S. Grant.

On October 21, 1880, they signed a treaty by which they agreed to divide the Ryûkyû Islands: Japan would take the northern islands, including the main island of Okinawa and the surrounding islands, and the southern part of Miyako and Yaeyama Islands would belong to China. Owing to lobbying against the division of the archipelago by Ryûkyûan activists and some Chinese officials, the Qing government did not reach a consensus as to formal ratification of the treaty. This proposed division of the archipelago was never realized, and the issue of the Ryûkyû's sovereignty was set aside until the end of the First Sino-Japanese War in 1895. This indicates that in spite of the abolishment of the Ryûkyû Kingdom and the establishment of Okinawa Prefecture in 1879, the sovereignty of the Ryûkyûs remained uncertain until the end of the Sino-Japanese War.

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