Sovereignty over Islands and Consequences for Maritime Boundaries: The Dispute over Senkaku/Diaoyu/Diaoyutai Islands

The last few weeks have seen anti-Japanese protests in almost a dozen Chinese cities.  Demonstrators took to the streets apparently in response to the latest developments in a long-standing dispute between China and Japan concerning a group of islands in the East China Sea called Senkaku in Japan, Diaoyu in the People’s Republic of China (China) and Diaoyutai in the Republic of China (also known as Taiwan) that each of these countries claim as their own.  The archipelago, which consists of five uninhabited islands and three rocks situated approximately 120 nautical miles northeast of Taiwan and 240 nautical miles southwest of Okinawa, has been administered by Japan since its return from US trustee administration in 1972 despite claims to its territory by both Beijing and Taipei.

Tensions increased when on 15 August 2012, Chinese activists sailing from Hong Kong landed on one of the islands and raised flags of both China and Taiwan, before being detained and deported back to Hong Kong.  A few days later, about 150 Japanese activists sailed to the islands to support their country’s claim to the territory, sparking the weekend’s protests in China.

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