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Diaoyu Islands

"Diaoyutai" redirects here. For the Chinese state guesthouse, see Diaoyutai State Guesthouse.

Senkaku Islands
Disputed islands
Other names:
Japanese: 尖閣諸島 (Senkaku)
Chinese: 釣魚台列嶼 (Diaoyutai/Tiaoyutai)
or 钓鱼岛及其附属岛屿 (Diaoyu/Tiaoyu)
Pinnacle Islands
Location of the islands (yellow rectangle and inset).
Location Pacific Ocean
Coordinates 44|41.49|N|123|28|29.79|E|type:isle name=


Total islands 5 + 3 rocks
Major islands Uotsuri-shima / Diaoyu Dao
Taishō-tō / Chiwei Yu
Kuba-shima / Huangwei Yu
Kita-Kojima / Bei Xiaodao
Minami-Kojima / Nan Xiaodao
Area 7 square kilometres (1,700 acres)
Administered by
City Ishigaki, Okinawa
Claimed by
City Ishigaki, Okinawa
 People's Republic of China
Township Toucheng, Yilan County, Taiwan Province
 Republic of China (Taiwan)
Township Toucheng, Yilan County, Taiwan Province

The Senkaku Islands ( Senkaku-shotō?, variants: 尖閣群島 Senkaku-guntō[1] and 尖閣列島 Senkaku-rettō[2]), also known as the Diaoyu Islands (Chinese: 钓鱼附属岛屿; pinyin: Diàoyúdǎo jí qí fùshǔ dǎoyǔ; also simply 钓鱼岛) in Mainland China or Tiaoyutai Islands (Chinese: 釣魚; pinyin: Diàoyútái liè yǔ) in Taiwan,[3] or the Pinnacle Islands, are a group of uninhabited islands controlled by Japan in the East China Sea. They are located roughly due east of Mainland China, northeast of Taiwan, west of Okinawa Island, and north of the southwestern end of the Ryukyu Islands.

After it was discovered in 1968 that oil reserves might be found under the sea near the islands,[4][5][6][7][8] Japan's sovereignty over them has been disputed by the People's Republic of China (PRC) and the Republic of China (ROC, commonly known as Taiwan) following the transfer of administration from the United States to Japan in 1971. The Chinese claim the discovery and control of the islands from the 14th century. Japan controlled the islands from 1895 until its surrender at the end of World War II. The United States administered them as part of the United States Civil Administration of the Ryukyu Islands from 1945 until 1972, when the islands reverted to Japanese control under the Okinawa Reversion Agreement between the United States and Japan.[9]

The islands are an issue in foreign relations between Japan and the PRC and between Japan and the ROC.[10] Despite the complexity of relations between the PRC and ROC, both governments agree that the islands are part of Taiwan as part of Toucheng Township in Yilan County of their respective divisions. Japan does not officially recognize Taiwan as a sovereign state,[3] and regards the islands as a part of Ishigaki, Okinawa Prefecture and acknowledges neither the claims of the PRC nor ROC to the islands. The Japanese government has not allowed Ishigaki to develop the islands.


Early history

Records of these islands date back to as early as the 15th century. They were referred as Diaoyu in books such as Voyage with a Tail Wind (simplified Chinese: 顺风相送; traditional Chinese: 順風相送; pinyin: Shùnfēng Xiāngsòng) (1403) [11] and Record of the Imperial Envoy's Visit to Ryūkyū (simplified Chinese: 使琉球录; traditional Chinese: 使琉球錄; pinyin: Shĭ Liúqiú Lù) (1534). Adopted by the Chinese Imperial Map of the Ming Dynasty, the Chinese name for the island group (Diaoyu) and the Japanese name for the main island (Uotsuri) both mean "fishing".

The first published description of the islands in Europe was in a book imported by Isaac Titsingh in 1796. His small library of Japanese books included Sangoku Tsūran Zusetsu (三国通覧図説 An Illustrated Description of Three Countries?) by Hayashi Shihei.[12] This text, which was published in Japan in 1785, described the Ryūkyū Kingdom.[13] In 1832, the Oriental Translation Fund of Great Britain and Ireland supported the posthumous abridged publication of Titsingh's French translation.[14]

The name, "Pinnacle Isles" was apparently first applied to them by James Colnett, who charted them during his 1789-1791 voyage in the Argonaut.[15] William Robert Broughton sailed past them in November 1797 during his voyage of discovery to the North Pacific in HMS Providence, and referred to Uotsuri Island as "Peaks Island".[16] Reference was made to the islands in a in Edward Belcher's 1848 account of the voyages of HMS Sammarang.[17] Captain Belcher observed that "the names assigned in this region have been too hastily admitted."[18] Belcher reported anchoring off Pinnacle Island in March 1845.[19]

In 1870s and 1880s, the English name Pinnacle Islands was used by the British navy for the rocks adjacent to the largest island Uotsuri-shima /Diaoyu Dao (then called Hoa-pin-su, 和平屿, "Peace Island"); Kuba-shima /Huangwei Yu (then called Ti-a-usu); and Taishō-tō/Chiwei Yu.[20] The name "Pinnacle Islands" is used by some as an English-language equivalent to "Senkaku" or "Diaoyu".[21]

The collective use of the name "Senkaku" to denote the entire group began with the advent of the controversy in the 1970s.[22]

Japanese and US control

The Japanese central government formally annexed the islands on 14 January 1895, naming them Senkaku, or “Pinnacled Pavilions.”[24] Around 1900, Japanese entrepreneur Koga Tatsushirō (古賀 辰四郎?) constructed a bonito fish processing plant on the islands, employing over 200 workers. The business failed around 1940 and the islands have remained deserted ever since.[23] In the 1970s, Koga Tatsushirō's son Zenji Koga and Zenji's wife Hanako sold four islets to the Kurihara family of Saitama Prefecture. Kunioki Kurihara[25] owned Uotsuri, Kita-Kojima, and Minami-Kojima. Kunioki's sister owns Kuba.[26]

The islands came under US government occupation in 1945 after the surrender of Japan ended World War II.[23] In 1969, the United Nations Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East (ECAFE) identified potential oil and gas reserves in the vicinity of the Senkaku Islands.[27] In 1971, the Okinawa Reversion Treaty passed the U.S. Senate, returning the islands to Japanese control in 1972.[28] Also in 1972, the Taiwanese and Chinese governments officially began to declare ownership of the islands.[29]

Since the islands reverted to Japanese government control in 1972, the mayor of Ishigaki has been given civic authority over the territory. The Japanese central government, however, has prohibited Ishigaki from surveying or developing the islands.[23][30] In 1979 an official delegation from the Japanese government composed of 50 academics, government officials from the Foreign and Transport ministries, officials from the now-defunct Okinawa Development Agency, and Hiroyuki Kurihara, visited the islands and camped on Uotsuri for about four weeks. The delegation surveyed the local ecosystem, finding moles and sheep, studied the local marine life, and examined whether the islands would support human habitation.[26]

From 2002 to 2012, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications paid the Kurihara family ¥25 million a year to rent Uotsuri, Minami-Kojima and Kita-Kojima. Japan's Ministry of Defense rents Kuba island for an undisclosed amount. Kuba is used by the U.S. military as a practice aircraft bombing range. Japan's central government completely owns Taisho island.[26][31]

On 17 December 2010, Ishigaki declared January 14 as "Pioneering Day" to commemorate Japan's 1895 annexation of the Senkaku Islands. China condemned Ishigaki's actions.[32] In 2012, both the Tokyo Metropolitan and Japanese central governments announced plans to negotiate purchase of Uotsuri, Kita-Kojima, and Minami-Kojima from the Kurihara family.[26]

On 11 September 2012, the Japanese government nationalized its control over Minami-kojima, Kita-kojima, and Uotsuri islands by purchasing them from the Kurihara family for ¥2.05 billion.[29][33] China's Foreign Ministry objected saying Beijing would not "sit back and watch its territorial sovereignty violated."[34]


The island group consists of five uninhabited islets and three barren rocks.

These minor features in the East China Sea are located approximately 120 nautical miles northeast of Taiwan, 200 nautical miles east of the Chinese mainland and 200 nautical miles southwest of the Japanese island of Okinawa.[35]

In ascending order of distances, the island cluster is located:

  • 140 kilometres (76 nmi; 87 mi) east of Pengjia Islet, ROC [36]
  • 170 kilometres (92 nmi; 110 mi) north of Ishigaki Island, Japan
  • 186 kilometres (100 nmi; 116 mi) northeast of Keelung, ROC
  • 410 kilometres (220 nmi; 250 mi) west of Okinawa Island, Japan
Islands in the group
No. Japanese name Chinese name Coordinates Area (km2) Highest elevation (m)
1 Uotsuri-shima (魚釣島)[37] Diaoyu Dao (釣魚島) 46|N|123|31|E|type:isle name=


2 Taishō-tō (大正島)[38] Chiwei Yu (赤尾嶼) 55|N|124|34|E|type:isle name=


3 Kuba-shima (久場島)[39] Huangwei Yu (黃尾嶼) 56|N|123|41|E|type:isle name=


4 Kita-kojima (北小島)[40] Bei Xiaodao(北小島) 45|N|123|36|E|type:isle name=


5 Minami-kojima (南小島)[41] Nan Xiaodao(南小島) 45|N|123|36|E|type:isle name=


6 Oki-no-Kita-iwa (沖ノ北岩)[42] Da Bei Xiaodao(大北小島/北岩) 49|N|123|36|E|type:isle name=


7 Oki-no-Minami-iwa (沖ノ南岩)[43] Da Nan Xiaodao (大南小島/南岩) 47|N|123|37|E|type:isle name=


8 Tobise (飛瀬?)[44] Fei Jiao Yan (飛礁岩/飛岩) 45|N|123|33|E|type:isle name=


The depth of the surrounding waters of the continental shelf is approximately 100–150 metres (328–492 ft) except for the Okinawa Trough on the south.[45]

The existence of the back-arc basin complicates descriptive issues. According to Professor Ji Guoxing of the Asia-Pacific Department at Shanghai Institute for International Studies,

  • China's interpretation of the geography is that
    "...the Okinawa Trough proves that the continental shelves of China and Japan are not connected, that the Trough serves as the boundary between them, and that the Trough should not be ignored ...."[46]
  • Japan's interpretation of the geography is that
    "...the trough is just an incidental depression in a continuous continental margin between the two countries ... [and] the trough should be ignored ...."[46]

Flora and fauna

Permission for collecting herbs on three of the islands was recorded in an Imperial Chinese edict of 1893.[47]

Uotsuri-shima, the largest island, has a number of endemic species such as the Senkaku Mole (Mogera uchidai) and Okinawa-kuro-oo-ari ant. Due to domestic goats introduced to the island in 1978, the Senkaku mole is an endangered species.[48]

Albatross are observed in the islands.[49] Amongst all islands, Minami Kojima is one of the few breeding places of the rare Short-tailed Albatross (Phoebastria albatrus).

Sovereignty dispute

Territorial sovereignty over the islands and the maritime boundaries around them are disputed between the People's Republic of China, the Republic of China (Taiwan), and Japan.

The People's Republic and Taiwan claim that the islands have been a part of Chinese territory since at least 1534. They acknowledge that Japan took control of the islands in 1894–1895 during the first Sino-Japanese War, through the signature of the Treaty of Shimonoseki. They assert that the Potsdam Declaration (which Japan accepted as part of the San Francisco Peace Treaty) required that Japan relinquish control of all islands except for "the islands of Honshū, Hokkaidō, Kyūshū, Shikoku and such minor islands as we determine", and they state that this means control of the islands should pass to China.

Japan does not accept that there is a dispute, asserting that the islands are an integral part of Japan.[50] Japan has rejected claims that the islands were under China's control prior to 1895, and that these islands were contemplated by the Potsdam Declaration or affected by the San Francisco Peace Treaty.[51]

See also



  • OCLC 192154
  • OCLC 23254092
  • Findlay, Alexander George. (1889). A Directory for the Navigation of the Indian Archipelago and the Coast of China. London: R. H. Laurie. OCLC 55548028
  • Hagström, Linus. (2005). Japan's China Policy: A Relational Power Analysis. London: Routledge. OCLC 475020946
  • ISBN 9622574734.
  • Jarrad, Frederick W. (1873). The China Sea Directory, Vol. IV. Comprising the Coasts of Korea, Russian Tartary, the Japan Islands, Gulfs of Tartary and Amúr, and the Sea of Okhotsk. London: Hydrographic Office, Admiralty. OCLC 557221949
  • Lee, Seokwoo, Shelagh Furness and Clive Schofield. (2002). Territorial disputes among Japan, China and Taiwan concerning the Senkaku Islands. Durham: University of Durham, OCLC 249501645
  • Suganuma, Unryu. (2000). Sovereign Rights and Territorial Space in Sino-Japanese Relations. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. OCLC 170955369
  • Valencia, Mark J. (2001). Maritime Regime Building: Lessons Learned and Their Relevance for Northeast Asia. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff. 10-OCLC 174100966

Further reading

  • Donaldson, John and Alison Williams. "Understanding Maritime Jurisdictional Disputes: The East China Sea and Beyond," Journal of International Affairs, Vol. 59, No. 1.
  • Dzurek, Daniel. IBRU). October 18, 1996.
  • Helflin, William B. Asian-Pacific Law & Policy Journal 1–22 (2000).
  • Peterson, Alexander M. Cornell International Law Journal 441–474 (2009).
  • Ramos-Mrosovsky, Carlos. University of Pennsylvania Journal of International Law 903-946 (2008).

External links

  • Google maps, Senkaku Islands
  • "Q&A China Japan island row," BBC News Asia-Pacific. September 24, 2010.
  • — References, Links
  • Diaoyu Islands Dispute
  • 三国通覧図説 (Sangoku Tsuran Zusetsu)

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