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Senkaku Islands

Senkaku Islands
Disputed islands
Other names:
Japanese: 尖閣諸島 (Senkaku Islands)
Chinese: 釣魚台列嶼 (Diaoyutai Islands)
or 钓鱼岛及其附属岛屿 (Diaoyu Islands)
Pinnacle Islands
Location of the islands (yellow rectangle and inset).
Location Pacific Ocean
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[1][2]
Claimed by
City Ishigaki, Okinawa
People's Republic of China
County Yilan County, Taiwan Province[3]
Republic of China (Taiwan)
Township Toucheng, Yilan County, Taiwan Province[4][5]

The Senkaku Islands ( (尖閣諸島 Senkaku-shotō, variants: 尖閣群島 Senkaku-guntō[6] and 尖閣列島 Senkaku-rettō[7]), firstly called the Diaoyu Islands by the Chinese and Western missionaries in the 1700s (Chinese: 钓鱼岛及其附属岛屿; pinyin: Diàoyúdǎo jí qí fùshǔ dǎoyǔ; also simply 钓鱼岛) in Mainland China or Diaoyutai Islands (Chinese: 釣魚台列嶼; pinyin: Diàoyútái liè yǔ) in Taiwan,[8][9][10][11] or the Pinnacle Islands,[1] 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.

Following the discovery of potential undersea oil reserves in 1968 in the area and the 1971 transfer of administrative control of the islands from the United States to Japan, the latter's sovereignty over the territory is disputed by both the People's Republic of China (PRC) and the Republic of China (also known as Taiwan).[12][13][14][15][16]

China claims the discovery and ownership of the islands from the 14th century, while Japan had ownership of the islands from 1895 until its surrender at the end of World War II. The United States administered the islands as part of the United States Civil Administration of the Ryukyu Islands from 1945 until 1972, when the islands returned to Japanese control under the Okinawa Reversion Agreement between the United States and Japan.[17]

The islands are disputed between China and Japan and between Japan and Taiwan.[18] Despite the diplomatic stalemate between China and Taiwan, both governments agree that the islands are part of Taiwan as part of Toucheng Township in Yilan County. Japan regards the islands as a part of the city of Ishigaki in Okinawa Prefecture, and acknowledges neither the claim of China nor Taiwan but has not allowed the Ishigaki administration to develop the islands.


  • History 1
    • Early history 1.1
    • Control of the islands by Japan and the US 1.2
  • Geography 2
    • Flora and fauna 2.1
  • Sovereignty dispute 3
  • See also 4
  • Footnotes 5
  • References 6
  • Further reading 7
  • External links 8


A map of Asia (China and Tartary) drawn by Jean Baptiste Bourguignon d'Anville in 1752.

Early history

Records of these islands date back to as early as the 15th century when 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) [19] 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".

Historically, the Chinese had used the uninhabited islands as navigational markers in making the voyage to the Ryukyu Kingdom upon commencement of diplomatic missions to the kingdom, "resetting the compass at a particular isle in order to reach the next one".[20]

The first published description of the islands in Europe appears 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.[21] This text, which was published in Japan in 1785, described the Ryūkyū Kingdom.[22] In 1832, the Oriental Translation Fund of Great Britain and Ireland supported the posthumous abridged publication of Titsingh's French translation.[23]

The name, "Pinnacle Isles" was first used by James Colnett, who charted them during his 1789-1791 voyage in the Argonaut.[24] 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".[25] Reference was made to the islands in Edward Belcher's 1848 account of the voyages of HMS Sammarang.[26] Captain Belcher observed that "the names assigned in this region have been too hastily admitted."[27] Belcher reported anchoring off Pinnacle Island in March 1845.[28]

In the 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 和平嶼 hô-pîng-sū, "Peace Island" in Hokkien); Kuba-shima / Huangwei Yu (then called Ti-a-usu); and Taishō-tō / Chiwei Yu.[29]

By the 16th century, in “A Record of an Imperial Envoy’s Visit to the Ryukyu Kingdom”, Chinese names were given to all the islets in the Diaoyu group. The great Japanese military scholar, Shihei Hayashi, followed convention in giving the islands their Chinese names in his map of 1785, “A General Outline of Three Countries” (see map). He also coloured them in the same pink as China.[30]

A Japanese navy record issued in 1886 first started to identify the islets using equivalents of the Chinese and English terms employed by the British. The name "Senkaku Retto" is not found in any Japanese historical document before 1900 (the term "Senkaku Gunto" began being used in the late 19th century), and first appeared in print in a geography journal published in 1900. It was derived from a translation of the English name Pinnacle Islands into a Sinicized Japanese term "Sento Shoto" (as opposed to "Senkaku Retto", i.e., the term used by the Japanese today), which has the same meaning.[31]

One islet of the group – Uotsuri

The collective use of the name "Diaoyutai" to denote the entire group began with the advent of the controversy in the 1970s.[32]

Control of the islands by Japan and the US

As the uninhabited islets were historically used as maritime navigational markers, they were never subjected to administrative control other than the recording of the geographical positions on maps, descriptions in official records of Chinese missions to the Ryukyu Kingdom, etc.[20]

Japanese workers at a bonito fishery processing plant on Uotsuri-shima sometime around 1910[33]

The Japanese central government annexed the islands in early 1895 after emerging victorious from the First Sino-Japanese War.[30] 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.[33] 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[34] owned Uotsuri, Kita-Kojima, and Minami-Kojima. Kunioki's sister owns Kuba.[35]

The islands came under US government occupation in 1945 after the surrender of Japan ended World War II.[33] 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.[36] In 1971, the Okinawa Reversion Treaty passed the U.S. Senate, returning the islands to Japanese control in 1972.[37] Also in 1972, the Republic of China (Taiwan) government and People's Republic of China government officially began to declare ownership of the islands.[38]

Since 1972, when the islands reverted to Japanese government control, 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.[33][39] 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.[35]

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.[35][40]

On December 17, 2010, Ishigaki declared January 14 as "Pioneering Day" to commemorate Japan's 1895 annexation of the Senkaku Islands. China condemned Ishigaki's actions.[41] 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.[35]

On September 11, 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.[42] China's Foreign Ministry objected saying Beijing would not "sit back and watch its territorial sovereignty violated."[43]

In 2014, Japan constructed a lighthouse and wharf featuring Japanese flag insignia on the islets.[44]


A cluster of islets – Uotsuri-shima (left), Kita-Kojima and Minami-Kojima (right)
A geological map of Uotsuri-shima drawn by Japanese geologist Hisashi Kuroiwa in 1900.

The island group are known to consist of five uninhabited islets and three barren rocks.[45] However, China has identified and named as many as 71 islets that belong to this group.[46][47]

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.[48]

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

  • 140 km (76 nmi; 87 mi) east of Pengjia Islet, ROC[49]
  • 170 km (92 nmi; 110 mi) north of Ishigaki Island, Japan
  • 186 km (100 nmi; 116 mi) northeast of Keelung, ROC
  • 410 km (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)[50] Diàoyú Dǎo (钓鱼岛) 4.32 383
2 Taishō-tō (大正島)[51] Chìwěi Yǔ (赤尾屿) 0.0609 75
3 Kuba-shima (久場島)[52] Huángwěi Yǔ (黄尾屿) 1.08 117
4 Kita-kojima (北小島)[53] Běi Xiǎodǎo (北小岛) 0.3267 135
5 Minami-kojima (南小島)[54] Nán Xiǎodǎo (南小岛) 0.4592 149
6 Oki-no-Kita-iwa (沖ノ北岩)[55] Dà Běi Xiǎodǎo (大北小岛) 0.0183 nominal
7 Oki-no-Minami-iwa (沖ノ南岩)[56] Dà Nán Xiǎodǎo (大南小岛/南岩) 0.0048 nominal
8 Tobise (飛瀬)[57] Fēi Jiāo Yán (飞礁岩/飞岩) 0.0008 nominal

The depth of the surrounding waters of the continental shelf is approximately 100–150 metres (330–490 ft) except for the Okinawa Trough on the south.[58]

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,

The Okinawa trough in context of back-arc basins of the world.
  • China's interpretation of the geography is that
  • Japan's interpretation of the geography is that

Flora and fauna

Permission for collecting herbs on three of the islands was recorded in an Imperial Chinese edict of 1893.[60]

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 the introduction of domestic goats to the island in 1978, the Senkaku mole is now an endangered species.[61]

Albatross are observed in the islands.[62] Amongst all islands, Minami Kojima is one of the few breeding places of the rare Short-tailed Albatross (Phoebastria albatrus).

Sovereignty dispute

Two of the disputed islets – Kita-Kojima (left) and Minami-Kojima (right)

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.[63] 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.[64]

In 2012 Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs created a website in support of its claims,[65] In late 2014 National Marine Data and Information Service, a department under the State Oceanic Administration of People's Republic of China created a website of its own to support its claims.[66][67]

See also


  1. ^ "The islands are also called 'Pinnacle Islands' for convenience and neutrality sake by Western scholars (Lai 2013, p. 208 cites Hagstrom 2005)
  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, Senkaku-guntō, Japan, retrieved September 20, 2010.
  7. ^ National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, Senkaku-rettō, Japan, retrieved September 20, 2010.
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^ Lee, Seokwoo. (2002). pp. 10–13.Territorial Disputes Among Japan, China and Taiwan Concerning the Senkaku Islands, , p. 10, at Google Books
  18. ^ McDorman, Ted L. (2005). "Central Pacific and East Asian Maritime Boundaries" in Vol. 5, pp. 3441.International Maritime Boundaries, , p. 3441, at Google Books
  19. ^ Title: Liang zhong hai dao zhen jing / [Xiang Da jiao zhu].Imprint: Beijing : Zhonghua shu ju : Xin hua shu dian Beijing fa xing suo fa xing, 2000 reprint edition. Contents: Shun feng xiang song--Zhi nan zheng fa. (順風相送--指南正法). ISBN ISBN 7-101-02025-9. pp96 and pp253. The full text is available at wikisource.
  20. ^ a b Suganuma, p. 49., p. 49-54, at Google Books
  21. ^ WorldCat, Sangoku Tsūran Zusetsu; alternate romaji Sankoku Tsūran Zusetsu
  22. ^ Cullen, Louis M. (2003). p. 137.A History of Japan, 1582–1941: Internal and External Worlds, , p. 137, at Google Books
  23. ^ Klaproth, Julius. (1832). pp. 169–180.San koku tsou ran to setsu, ou Aperçu général des trois royaumes, , p. i, at Google Books
  24. ^ “Pinnacle Rock in Latitude 29°40’ and Longitude 132° E. of London... This Navigation is no ways dangereous were you sure of your Latitude and to make Pinnicle Isle”. James Colnett, The Journal ... aboard the Argonaut from April 26, 1789 to Nov. 3, 1791, ed. with introd. and notes by F. W. Howay, Toronto, Champlain Society Vol.26, 1940, p.47.
  25. ^ William Robert Broughton, William Robert Broughton's Voyage of Discovery to the North Pacific, 1795-1798, edited by Andrew David ; with an introduction by Barry Gough, Ashgate for the Hakluyt Society, Farnham, England; Burlington, VT, 2010, p.202.
  26. ^ Suganuma, Unryu. (2001). Sovereign Rights and Territorial Space in Sino-Japanese Relations, at Google Books
  27. ^ Belcher, Edward. (1848). Vol. I, pp. 315.Narrative of the Voyage of H.M.S. Samarang, , p. 315, at Google Books; Belcher, Vol. II, pp. 572–574., p. 572, at Google Books
  28. ^ Belcher, Vol. I, at Google Books; excerpt at p. 317, "On the 16th, we endeavoured to obtain observations on Tia-usu; a landing was effected, but the absence of sun prevented our obtaining satisfactory observations, and bad weather coming on hastened our departure. This group, comprehending hô-pîng-san (和平山, "Peace Island", Uotsuri-shima), Pinnacle Rocks, and Tias-usu (Kuba-shima), form a triangle, of which the hypothenuse, or distance between Hoa-pin-san and Tia-usu, extends about fourteen miles, and that between Hoa-pinsan and the Southern Pinnacle, about two miles."
  29. ^ Suganuma, p. 90., p. 90, at Google Books; Jarrad, Frederick W. (1873). Vol. IV, pp. 141–142.The China Sea Directory, , p. 141, at Google Books
  30. ^ a b
  31. ^ Suganuma, p. 91., p. 91-4, at Google Books
  32. ^ Koo, Min Gyo (2009). p. 103 n2.Disputes and Maritime Regime Building in East Asia, citing Park (1973) "Oil under Troubled Waters: The Northeast Asia Seabed Controversy," 14 HILJ (Harvard International Law Journal) 212, 248–249; also Park, Choon-Ho. (1972)Continental Shelf Issues in the Yellow Sea and the East China Sea. Kingston, Rhode Island: Law of the Sea Institute, pp. 1–64.
  33. ^ a b c d Kaneko, Maya, (Kyodo News) "Ishigaki fishermen fret over Senkaku encroachment", Japan Times, December 8, 2010, p. 3.
  34. ^
  35. ^ a b c d Ito, Masami, "Owner OK with metro bid to buy disputed Senkaku Islands", Japan Times, May 18, 2012, pp. 1-2
  36. ^
  37. ^ Finney, John W. "Senate Endorses Okinawa Treaty; Votes 84 to 6 for Island's Return to Japan," New York Times. November 11, 1971.
  38. ^ Kyodo News, "Senkaku purchase bid made official", Japan Times, September 11, 2012, p. 2
  39. ^ Ito, Masami, "Jurisdiction over remote Senkakus comes with hot-button dangers", Japan Times, May 18, 2012, p. 1
  40. ^ Hongo, Jun, "Tokyo's intentions for Senkaku islets", Japan Times, April 19, 2012, p. 2.
  41. ^ Agence France-Presse, "Senkaku memorial day riles China", Japan Times, December 19, 2010, p. 1. Retrieved January 29, 2011.
  42. ^
  43. ^
  44. ^ Kyodo News, "Taiwan activists threaten to land on Senkakus if Japan doesn’t remove facilities", Japan Times, 2 March 2015
  45. ^ How uninhabited islands soured China-Japan ties
  46. ^ China announces geographic codes for Diaoyu Islands
  47. ^ China releases official names of disputed islands
  48. ^ UC Berkeley: UC Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation; retrieved November 15, 2010.
  49. ^ Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrals (ACAP), Breeding site details: Agincourt/P'eng-chia-Hsu
  50. ^ Geospatial Information Authority of Japan (GSI), 魚釣島 (Uotsuri-shima).
  51. ^ GSI, 大正島 (Taishō-tō).
  52. ^ GSI, 久場島 (Kuba-shima).
  53. ^ Google Maps, 北小島 (Kita kojima); GSI, 北小島 (Kita kojima).
  54. ^ Google Maps, 南小島 (Minami Kojima)
  55. ^ GSI, 沖ノ北岩 (Okino Kitaiwa).
  56. ^ GSI, 沖ノ南岩 (Okino Minami-iwa).
  57. ^ GSI, 飛瀬 (Tobise).
  58. ^ Ji, Guoxing. (1995). "Maritime Jurisdiction in the Three China Seas," p. 11; Sibuet, Jean-Claude et al. "Back arc extension in the Okinawa Trough," Journal of Geophysical Research, Vol. 92, Issue B13, p. 14041-14063.
  59. ^ a b Ji, p. 11.
  60. ^ Ji, p. 11; excerpt, "In 1893, Empress Dowager Tsu Shih of the Qing Dynasty issued an imperial edict .... China argues that discovery accompanied by some formal act of usage is sufficient to establish sovereignty over the islands."
  61. ^ Zoological Society of London, EDGE (Evolutionary Distinct & Globally Endangered) Senkaku mole, 2006; retrieved November 15, 2010.
  62. ^ Porcasi, Judith F. (1999). "Prehistoric Exploitation of Albatross on the Southern California Channel Islands," Journal of California and Great Basin Anthropology. Vol. 21 (1), pp. 109, citing Hasegawa, Hiroshi. (1979). "Status of the Short-tailed Albatross of Torishimia and in the Senkaku Retto in 1978/79. Pacific Seabird Group Bulletin 6:23–25; and Hasegawa, Hiroshi and Anthony R. Degange. (1982). "The Short-tailed Albatross, 'Diamedea albatrus, Its Status, Distribution and Natural History." American Birds, 36(5):806–814.
  63. ^ Netherlands Institute for the Law of the Sea (NILOS). (2000). p. 108.International Organizations and the Law of the Sea, , p. 108, at Google Books
  64. ^ Ji, pp. 11–12, 19.
  65. ^
  66. ^
  67. ^


  • Belcher, Edward and Arthur Adams. (1848). Narrative of the Voyage of H.M.S. Samarang, During the Years 1843–46: Employed Surveying the Islands of the Eastern Archipelago. London : Reeve, Benham, and Reeve. OCLC 192154
  • Charney, Jonathan I., David A. Colson, Robert W. Smith. (2005). International Maritime Boundaries, 5 vols. Hotei Publishing: Leiden. ISBN 9780792311874; ISBN 9789041119544; ISBN 9789041103451; ISBN 9789004144613; ISBN 9789004144798; 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. ISBN 978-0-415-34679-5; OCLC 475020946
  • Inoue, Kiyoshi. (1972) Senkaku Letto /Diaoyu Islands The Historical Treatise. Kyoto: Daisan Publisher (出版社: 第三書館) (1996/10) 「尖閣」列島―釣魚諸島の史的解明 [単行本]. ISBN 978-4-8074-9612-9; also hosted in here [1] for online reading (set to Shift-JIS character code), with English synopsis here. Chinese translation by Ying Hui, Published by Commercial Press Hong Kong (1973) 釣魚列島的歷史和主權問題 / 井上清著 ; 英慧譯, 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, International Boundaries Research Unit (IBRU). ISBN 978-1-897643-50-1; OCLC 249501645
  • Suganuma, Unryu. (2000). Sovereign Rights and Territorial Space in Sino-Japanese Relations. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. ISBN 978-0-8248-2159-3; OCLC 170955369
  • Valencia, Mark J. (2001). Maritime Regime Building: Lessons Learned and Their Relevance for Northeast Asia. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff. ISBN 9789041115805; OCLC 174100966

Further reading

External links

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