Ryukyu Islands Japanese archipelago in the w Pacific Ocean, extending c.970km (600mi) between Kyushu in s Japan and Taiwan; it separates the East China Sea (w) from the Philippine Sea (e). Inhabited since early times, China invaded the Ryukyu Islands in the 14th century. Occupied by Japan in the 17th century, China relinquished them to Japan in 1879. After World War 2 they were administered by the USA, and restored to Japan in 1972. The group includes Okinawa, Amami and Sakishima. Agriculture and fishing are the chief occupations. Area: c.2200sq km (850sq mi). Pop. (2000) 1,318,281.
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