SINGAPORE (Reuters) - China does not dispute Japanese sovereignty over Okinawa and recent comments in Chinese newspapers merely reflects the views of some academics, a senior Chinese military leader said on Sunday.
"China's position has not changed... Scholars can put forth any idea they want and they do not represent the views of the Chinese government," the deputy chief of general staff of the Chinese People's Liberation Army, Lieutenant General Qi Jianguo, told delegates at a security conference in Singapore.
China's state-owned People's Daily last month published an article by two academics that said Okinawa was part of an island chain that used to be a vassal of imperial Chinese dynasties before it was annexed by Japan in the 19th century, implicitly asserting Chinese claims over the island.
Okinawa, host to the bulk of up to 50,000 U.S. military personnel in Japan, is the largest island in the Ryukyu chain, which extends south towards Taiwan.
China is already involved in a tense dispute with Japan over the latter's move last year to nationalise the nearby Senkaku islets, which the Chinese call Diaoyu, which sits astride key shipping lanes and undersea energy resources.
That row has escalated in recent months to the point where both sides have scrambled fighter jets while patrol ships shadow each other in nearby seas, raising worry that an unintended collision or other incident could lead to a broader clash.
(Reporting by Kevin Lim; Editing by Michael Perry)