TEHRAN, YJC. -- China's top newspaper on Wednesday published a call for a "reconsideration" of Japan's sovereignty over the island of Okinawa -- home to major US bases -- with the Asian powers already embroiled in a territorial row.
The lengthy article in the People's Daily, China's most-circulated newspaper and the mouthpiece of the ruling Communist party, argued that China may have rights to the Ryukyu island chain, which includes Okinawa.
"Unresolved problems relating to the Ryukyu Islands have reached the time for reconsideration," wrote Zhang Haipeng and Li Guoqiang, citing post World War II declarations which require Japan to return Chinese territory.
The authors are scholars at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, considered China's top state-run think tank.
The article also repeated Chinese government arguments for China's historical claims over a set of tiny uninhabited islets in the East China Sea known as Diaoyu in Chinese and Senkaku in Japanese.
The two nations have stepped up a war of words over the dispute in recent months, with Beijing's vessels regularly entering the waters around the Tokyo-controlled islands, stoking fears of armed conflict.
Okinawa is the biggest of the Ryukyu islands, which stretch for about 1,000 kilometres (620 miles) from Japan's mainland, and was the centre of the Ryukyuan kingdom which paid tribute to Chinese emperors until it was absorbed by Japan in 1879.
The island is home to major US air force and marine bases as well as 1.3 million people, who are considered more closely related to Japan in ethnic and linguistic terms than to China.
But some Chinese see historical ties as a basis for sovereignty and dismiss Japan's possession of the islands as a legacy of its aggressive expansionism that ended in defeat at the end of the Second World War.
China's government does not make such claims, but state media have from time to time carried articles and commentaries questioning Japan's authority.