Historically, they were within the Chinese cultural orbit. Their food, clothing, music to this day, you see Chinese influences. Karate came to Japan from them (via kungfu from China). The Japanese samurais had so mistreated them and disarmed them, that the Chinese taught them kungfu to fight back (weaponless, with the hands and feet). During WWII, the loyalty of the Okinawans was often questioned by the Japanese and they did horrible things to the native Okinawans (ie forced suicides).
Okinawans don't mind Chinese ships passing through their waters because they know Chinese have good intentions towards them based on past historical relationship. The east sea area should be jointly developed by Chinese/Okinawans/Ryukyuans and nobody else. Free the Okinawans!