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Japan to rename areas of islands disputed with China

  • Category
    International Relations
  • Published
    1st Jul, 2020

Japan's Ishigaki city Assembly passed a bill to rename an administrative area covering a group of islands in the East China Sea, immediately triggering backlash from China and Taiwan, both of which also claim the uninhabited islets as their own.

Context

Japan's Ishigaki city Assembly passed a bill to rename an administrative area covering a group of islands in the East China Sea, immediately triggering backlash from China and Taiwan, both of which also claim the uninhabited islets as their own.

About

  • The disputed islands are known as the Senkaku in Japan and the Diaoyu in China.
  • Ties between China and Japan have been strained by a territorial row over a group of islands, known as the Senkaku islands in Japan and the Diaoyu islands in China.
  • There are total eight uninhabited islands and rocks in the East China Sea.
  • They have a total area of about 7 sq km and lie north-east of Taiwan, east of the Chinese mainland and south-west of Japan's southern-most prefecture, Okinawa. The islands are controlled by Japan.



The changed names

  • The assembly changed the name of the southern Japan area containing the Senkaku Islands from "Tonoshiro" to "Tonoshiro Senkaku," which both Beijing and Taipei see as an attempt to cement Tokyo's claim by inserting the Japanese name "Senkaku."
  • The renaming takes effect on Oct. 1 and it is aimed at resolving administrative confusion between a locale in downtown Ishigaki, which shares the name "Tonoshiro" with the isles.

What is Japan's claim?

  • Japan says it surveyed the islands for 10 years in the 19th Century and determined that they were uninhabited.
  • On 14 January 1895 Japan erected a sovereignty marker and formally incorporated the islands into Japanese territory.
  • After World War Two, Japan renounced claims to a number of territories and islands including Taiwan in the 1951 Treaty of San Francisco.
  • These islands, however, came under US trusteeship and were returned to Japan in 1971 under the Okinawa reversion deal.

Claims made by China

  • China says that the islands have been part of its territory since ancient times, serving as important fishing grounds administered by the province of Taiwan.
  • Taiwan was ceded to Japan in the Treaty of Shimonoseki in 1895, after the Sino-Japanese war.
  • When Taiwan was returned in the Treaty of San Francisco, China says the islands should have been returned too. Beijing says Taiwan's Kuomintang leader Chiang Kai-shek did not raise the issue, even when the islands were named in the later Okinawa reversion deal, because he depended on the US for support.
  • Separately, Taiwan also claims the islands.

Why are they important?

  • They matter because they are close to important shipping lanes, offer rich fishing grounds and lie near potential oil and gas reserves.
  • They are also in a strategically significant position, amid rising competition between the US and China for military primacy in the Asia-Pacific region
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