Marco Tinello: The Annexation of the Ryūkyū Kingdom to Japan from a Global Perspective

20 novembre 2020, 18:00 JST
From 1872 onward Tokyo’s leaders resorted to a number of political and diplomatic maneuvers to formally incorporate the Ryūkyū Kingdom into the newly established Meiji state, culminating in the establishment of Okinawa Prefecture in 1879. The crucial issue in this process was to eliminate the Ryūkyū’s traditional dual subordination to both China and Japan, and earlier studies have considered the annexation an event that mainly concerned these two states. However, the United States, France, and Holland had stipulated Treaties of Amity with the Ryūkyū Kingdom in 1854, 1855, and 1859, without any reference to its subordination to Japan. How was it possible for the Meiji government to prevent these treaties from becoming a major diplomatic obstacle during the annexation process? In fact, the annexation marked a significant passage not only in Ryūkyūan, Japanese, and Chinese history, but also in Western foreign diplomacy in East Asia.