Econintersect: We have been reporting on China's South China Sea islands territorial disputes with Vietnam and the Philippines. (Vietnamese readers have informed us the name is actually East Sea, or at least that is what they have called it historically.) Another island territorial dispute is in the news this weekend, this time between China and Japan and the the waters involved now are the East China Sea.
The five island cluster (plus three reefs) are located approximately 150 miles east of the Japanese island of Okinawa and about the same distance from mainland China. Taiwan is closer (less than 100 miles to the south) and also claims the islands. See map below.
Japan's name for the disputed territory is the Senkaku Islands and China calls them the Diaoyu Islands. What makes them especially valuable is the potential for oil and gas fields nearby. The islands are also in the middle of a rich fishing grounds and there have been continuing face-offs between fishing vessels from the two countries.
The dispute was further publicized last week following the arrest by Japan of 14 Chinese activists who landed on the islands and planted a Chinese flag. Japan repatriated the Chinese activists on Friday (August 17).
Then on Sunday (August 19) Japanese activists landed on the islands waving Japanese flags. This was done after the Japanese government had warned activists not to make the demonstration. Reports indicate that the Japanese authoprity removed some of the demonstrators and others left voluntarily. Click on caption photo at beginning of this article for enlarged view of some Japanese activists.
China claims the islands have been part of their territory since antiquity. Japan bases its claim to the islands by occupation in 1884 after it was determined that they were uninhabited and formalized in 1895 by treaty with China following the first Sino-Japanese War. China protests the legitimacy of the 1895 treaty, saying it was signed under duress. The islands belonged to the U.S. from 1951 (Treaty of San Fransisco, never recognized by Japan) until they were transferred back to Japan in 1972.
Two of the smaller islands are shown in the photo below.
One of the largest islands is shown in the picture below. The total land area of the eight pieces of land is about 2.5 square miles (7 square km).
Japan and South Korea also have an island dispute problem (Reuters) over . The island is Dokdo, South Korea or Takeshima, Japan. It is shown on the following map and pictured following. One of the islands has a watchtower with living facilities and is permanently occupied by two long-time Korean residents and government police. It is visited by more than 100,000 tourists each year who reach the islands by ferry.
There have been public demonstrations against Japan in both China and South Korea this weekend.
- South China Sea Tensions and Other News (GEI News, 29 June 2012)
- Q&A: China-Japan islands row (BBC News, 16 August 2012)
- Japan activists land on disouted islands amid China row (BBC News, 19 August 2012)
- China-Japan Island Dispute Has a Long History (Voice of America, 17 August 2012)
- UPDATE: 5-Landings, protest stoke Japan-China islands dispute (Chris Meyers, Reuters, 19 August 2012)