A senior Chinese military official said Beijing does not contest Japan’s sovereignty over Okinawa and other islands in the Ryukyu chain.

Lt. Gen. Qi Jianguo, deputy chief of general staff of the People’s Liberation Army, reiterated Beijing’s unwavering stance in departure from recent commentary in Chinese newspapers, which he dismissed as merely “scholarly musings”, reports Wall Street Journal.

“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,” Qi told delegates at the Shangri-La Dialogue, a security conference in Singapore, Sunday.

The Communist Party’s mouthpiece People’s Daily last month published an article by two academics questioning Tokyo’s historical claim on the Ryukyu Islands, which extend south towards Taiwan. The chain includes Okinawa, a key island to the US defense strategy in the Asia-Pacific region.

Tokyo has dismissed the commentary, saying there is “no doubt” about its sovereignty over the islands.

The issue comes amid broiling tensions between Tokyo and Beijing over the Japanese-controlled Senkaku islands, known as Diaoyu in Chinese, in the East China Sea.

In an apparent battle over strategic sea lanes and undersea energy resources surrounding the islands, China has repeatedly challenged Japan’s control by sending vessels to the waters.

Li stressed that “the issues over the Diaoyu, the Ryukyu Islands and Okinawa are not the same” and defended the deployment of Chinese ships to the East China Sea. “It is not controversial for us to be patrolling within our own territory,” he said.