The Senkaku Islands (Japanese: 尖閣諸島; Senkaku-Shotō) are islands are currently under Japanese control but claimed by the People's Republic of China and the Republic of China (Taiwan), by which they are known as the Diaoyu Islands or Diaoyutai Islands (Simplified Chinese: 钓鱼台列岛, Hanyu Pinyin: Diàoyútái Lièdǎo) and Tiaoyu Tai or Tiaoyutai Islands (Traditional Chinese: 釣魚台列嶼, Tiaoyutai Lieyu). They are also known as the Pinnacle Islands, named by the British navigators, and the probable source of the Japanese name. Though these islands are too small to be pictured on most maps, their status have emerged as a major issue in Sino-Japanese relations.
- Total island area: 7 km²
- Population: 0
- Geographic coordinates: 25°58' - 25°41'45" N, 123°27'45" - 124°41'30" E
The group is made up of five small volcanic islands:
- Uotsuri-jima (魚釣島)⊕ or Diaoyu Dao (釣魚島本島 "Angling Island" or 主島): 4.319 km²
- Kuba-jima (久場島) or Huangwei Yu (黃尾嶼 "Yellow Tail"): 1.08 km²
- Taisho-jima(大正島) or Chiwei Yu (赤尾嶼 "Red Tail")
- Kita Kojima or Beixiao Dao (北小島 "Northern Islet")※
- Minami Kojima or Nanxiao Dao (南小島 "Southern Islet")※
And three rocks:
- Okino Kitaiwa (沖ノ北岩 "Northern Rocks of the Open Sea") -No Chinese name
- Okino Minamiiwa (沖ノ南岩 "Southern Rocks of the Open Sea") -No Chinese name
- Tobise (飛瀬 "Flying Shoal") -No Chinese name
⊕Japanese name literally derived from the Chinese name ※Chinese name derived from the Japanese name
In Japan, the islands are considered part of the Southwest Islands. They are 170 km north of Ishigaki Islands, Japan; 170 km northeast of Keelung, Taiwan; and 410 km west of Okinawa Island. The islands sit on the edge of the continental shelf of mainland Asia, and are separated from the Ryukyu Islands by a deep sea trench.
Chinese rule or terra nullius
China claims that it had already ruled the islands before Japan controlled them, while Japan claims that they were terra nullius.
China claims that the Islands were within Ming's sea-defense area and belonged to Taiwan. The Chinese claimed that the Islands were first mentioned in literature in 1372. The Islands were first documented during the Ming Dynasty, by royal visitors from Ming China to the Ryukyu Kingdom at the current Okinawa prefecture of Japan. The documentation mentions, "When crossing the sea, we could see black [ocean] current underneath. The guide said, after passing this black current, they will leave the boundary of China. At this stage, we can see a series of islands that cannot be seen in the return trip." During the Qing Dynasty, when the ex-Ming Dynasty general Zheng Jing was defeated, Taiwan and its surrounding islands became under the control of the Qing. The Islands were used only as a landmark for the trip to Ryukyu kingdoms. Some Chinese suggest that during the Cixi era, the Islands were presented as a gift to a mandarin "for the purpose of collecting herbs on the islands," but its credibility is questioned.
Japanese scholars claims that neither China nor Okinawa had recognition of sovereignty over the uninhabited islands so that Chinese documents only prove that Kumejima, the first inhabited island the Chinese met, belonged to Okinawa. Japanese scholars show that the History of Ming (明史), the official history book of the Ming Dynasty compiled during the Qing period, classifies Taiwan and surrounding islands as "foreign countries". They also point to other official Chinese records about Taiwan or Fujian that never mention these islands. In their view, it is certain that no one effectively controlled them.
Japan's formal incorporation and the Treaty of Shimonoseki
Japan claims that after the Meiji Restoration, the Japanese Government conducted surveys of the Islands from 1885 that confirmed for her that these uninhabited islands had no trace of having been under the control of China. Thus Japan decided to erect a marker on the Islands to formally incorporate them in a Cabinet Decision on 14 January 1895. Among these islands, four islands were borrowed and developed by the Koga family.
Today China does not approve Japan's formal incorporation and claims that it is the Treaty of Shimonoseki on April 17, 1895, in which China ceded Taiwan to Japan, also ceded the islands, although the treaty lacks an explicit mention of them. Thus China claims that they should have been returned together with Taiwan after World War II, under provisions of the Cairo Declaration, Potsdam Declaration, and Article 2 of the San Francisco Treaty and the Treaty of Taipei.
In a testimonial in 1920 a diplomat from the Chinese Beiyang warlord government once admitted that the islands belonged to the Yaeyama District of Okinawa Prefecture.
An important basis for the Chinese claim comes from a 1944 court ruling in Japan. In that year, the Tokyo court ruled that the islands are part of Taihoku Prefecture (Taipei Prefecture), following a dispute between Okinawa Prefecture and Taihoku Prefecture. The contents of the San Francisco Treaty itself regarding Taiwan (and by extension, the disputed islands) are sometimes disputed.
Japan claims that after World War II the islands came under the U.S. occupation as part of Okinawa. The U.S. and the Ryukyu Government under the U.S. occupation explicitly ruled the island, and the U.S. navy used Kuba-jima and Taisho-jima as maneuver areas. In 1972 the islands were returned from the U.S. to Japan as part of Okinawa.
Japanese scholars point out that it was not so difficult for the ROC to occupy these island in 1945 because she had already incorporated Taiwan and the surrounding islands two months before the U.S. military occupation extended to Yaeyama Islands. Thus they claim that this proves her lack of willingness to own these islands. They also bring official Chinese publications that show these islands as part of Okinawa.
Scholars from Taiwan reject Japan's claim, pointing out that the ROC government does possess sovereignty over the Islands. When U.S. forces were stationed on Taiwan during the Cold War, military maneuvers were periodically held which required the use of the Islands as an aerial bombing target. The U.S. military applied each time to the ROC government, instead of the Japanese authority, for authorization.
According to Taiwanese sources, the 1954 ROC-U.S. Mutual Defense Treaty contains wording implying that the ROC did control the Islands. The ROC government and the U.S. later agreed to place under the U.S. forces' patrol the area some miles north of the Taiwan island, meaning that the ROC had agreed to U.S. forces patrolling the area around the Islands.
Beginning of the dispute
A survey in 1968 found potential oil fields on the East China Sea, bringing attention to these islands. The Beijing and Taipei governments subsequently pressed their claims of sovereignty over these islands. The ROC claimed them for the first time on June 11, 1971, which was followed by the PRC on December 30.
- 1988: The Japan Youth Association set up a lighthouse on the main island.
- July 14, 1996: The Japan Youth Association builds a 5-m high, solar-powered, aluminum lighthouse on another islet.
- September 26, 1996: A Hong Kong protester drowns while trying to swim to the main island (Diaoyu Dao, Uotsuri-jima).
- October 7, 1996: Protesters plant the flags of the ROC and the PRC on the main island, but they were later removed by the Japanese.
- April 2002: The Japanese government leased Uotsuri and other islands from the private owners
- March 24, 2004: A group of Chinese activists from the PRC lands, planning to stay on the Islands for 3 days. The seven who land on the Islands are arrested by the Japanese government for illegal entry. The Japanese Foreign Ministry forwards a complaint to the PRC government, and the PRC in turn demands their release. They were then deported from Japan. Japan subsequently banned anybody from landing on the islands without prior permission.
- February 2005 Japan plans to take ownership of a privately owned lighthouse on Uotsuri, after it was offered to them by the owner, a fisherman living on Ishigaki, Okinawa. The lighthouse will be managed by the Japanese Coast Guard
Public Opinion & Official Positions
- The U.S., which once occupied the islands as part of Okinawa, states that the U.S.-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security is applied to them, although the U.S. carefully avoids any involvement in the dispute itself.
- The dispute is a major issue in the PRC, especially among supporters of Chinese nationalism, and is often a focal point for anti-Japanese sentiment.
- Though Taiwan officially claims sovereignty over the Islands, the dispute has generally not been considered to be a pressing issue in recent years. Public opinion remains mostly indifferent, though hardcore supporters of Chinese unification tend to be in favour of a more hardline stance, while hardcore supporters of Taiwan independence tend to lean more towards accepting Japan's claim (not least because of the concern that the islands might fall into PRC hands).