Chinese nationalist commentators have boldly urged Beijing to contest Japan’s control over Okinawa, in a move to take a swipe at the country’s claim on the disputed Senkaku islands, the Financial Times reports.

“China should not be afraid of engaging with Japan in a mutual undermining of territorial integrity,” the Communist party-run Global Times stated in an editorial earlier this month. Major General Jin Yinan, head of strategy research institute at China’s National Defense University told state radio that questioning Japan’s sovereignty over Senkaku, or Diaoyu in Chinese, was “too narrow”, saying Beijing should question administration of the whole Ryukyu archipelago. Tang Chunfeng, a former official at the Chinese embassy in Tokyo, said it was time for China to “rethink its acceptance of Japanese rule over Okinawa” as restraint has “done a lot of harm”.

China argued that the archipelago was an independent state known as the Ryukyu Kingdom which paid formal tribute to Chinese emperors as early as the 15th century. Okinawa was administered to Japan in 1879.

According to Sino-Japan think-tank June Teufel Dreyer, using “tributary relationship at some point in history” as the basis for sovereignty claims could create havoc in the 20th century. “Many, many countries had tributary relationships with China,” he added.

Beijing is said to see the archipelago as the biggest impediment to Chinese naval expansion because of its US military bases.