China sought to bolster its claims to the disputed Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea on Saturday by opening an online “museum” of newspaper clippings and other items related to the issue.

The materials, including reports from People’s Daily – the mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party – and a government white paper, were curated by a team from Fujian Normal University and uploaded to the semi-official website run by the China Oceanic Information Network.

The group of eight uninhabited islets are administered by Japan, which calls them the Senkaku Islands, but claimed by both sides, and also by Taiwan. Beijing says it exercised jurisdiction over the islets centuries before Japan even discovered them.

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The sovereignty dispute has been a thorn in the side of China-Japan relations since Tokyo bought the islands from a private owner in September 2012.

On Thursday, Japan effected a change to the official addresses of the five main islands in the group by including the word “Senkaku” in their names. The decision to do so was made in June, but its implementation coincided with China’s National Day holiday, which marks the foundation of the People’s Republic of China by the Communist Party.

Despite their long and troubled history, relations between Beijing and Tokyo have improved this year, partly as a result of Japan contributing vital medical supplies to China in the early days of the coronavirus epidemic.

Japan on Thursday announced a change to the official addresses of the five main islands in the Senkaku group. Photo: Kyodo

The health crisis stymied plans for Chinese President Xi Jinping to visit Japan in the spring but according to a report by Japan’s state broadcaster NHK last week, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi could travel to Tokyo as early as this month to meet his Japanese counterpart Toshimitsu Motegi and newly installed Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.

Xi called Suga last month to congratulate him on his appointment after former leader Shinzo Abe stepped down for health reasons.

The relationship between China and Japan has been put under fresh pressure however as a result of the poor state of ties between Beijing and Washington.

While the US has no formal position on who owns the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands, both President Donald Trump and his predecessor Barack Obama have stated that the chain is covered by the US-Japan security alliance.

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