Diaoyutai or Senkaku Islands depending on one’s political view is a highly contested topic in Asia especially between the Chinese and the Japanese. There are activists who risk their lives fighting for these islands. The row of uninhabited islands is located close to Taiwan in the East China Sea. These islands have sparked a territorial dispute for over a century between Japan and China, the strongest countries in Asia over the ownership of these islands. Although the islands are uninhabited and small, the territory is close to key shipping lanes and fishing grounds rich for bonito fish. In 1969, the UN Economic Commission for Asia and the Pacific also published a report on the potential undersea oil reserves in the territory adding heat to the territorial dispute.
Here is a timeline on the events surrounding the territory:
1368-1644 Ming Dynasty placed Diaoyutai under the Chinese coastal defense. Chinese books published during this era mentions Diaoyutai.
1644-1912 During the Qing Dynasty, the Qing Court placed the islands under the jurisdiction of the local government of Taiwan.
1885 Japanese government surveyed the Senkaku Islands.
1894-1895 Qing Dynasty China lost the first Sino Japanese War and the Treaty of Shimonoseki was signed for China to recognize that Korea was independent. Taiwan territory was also ceded, which technically includes Diaoyutai, Penghu Islands, and the Liaodong Peninsula in Manchuria
1895 Through a Cabinet decision, the Japanese government decided to put it under the occupation of Okinawa Prefecture.
1896 The Japanese government leased the islands to Japanese entrepreneur Tatsushiro Koga. Koga built plants to process bonito fish and albatross feathers.
1912 Qing Dynasty overthrown by the United League of China led by Sun Yat-sen.
1918 Tatsushiro Koga Died and his son Zenji Koga took over his business on Senkaku Islands.
1927- Chinese civil war started between the Nationalist party led by Chiang Kai-Shek and Communist party led by Mao Zedong.
1931- Japan invaded Manchuria and installed Puyi, who was abdicated in 1912 from the Qing Dynasty, as the leader of the puppet government.
1932- The Japanese government sold four of the islands to Zenji Koga
1937- The Second Sino-Japanese War started.
1940- Zenji Koga abandoned the business and left the islands uninhabited.
1941- The US entered World War 2 on the side of the Allies.
1945- Japan surrendered to the US-led allied nations at the end of WW2. General Order No. 1 was signed which ended the Japanese rule of Taiwan. The United States also occupied Okinawa prefecture.
1949- Nationalists lost the civil war and retreated to Taiwan.
1952- Treaty of San Francisco was signed, without the mention of Senkaku Island.
1969- The UN Economic Commission for Asia and the Pacific reports that there may be potential undersea oil reserves in the territory.
1971- The governments of China and Taiwan formally declare ownership of the islands.
1972- Okinawa returned to Japanese rule.
1972-1985- Koga sold the islands in individual transactions to the Kurihara family.
1978- About 100 Chinese fishing boats sailed close to the islands. A Japanese nationalist group built a lighthouse on one of the islands.
1996- The Japanese nationalist group built another lighthouse on another island. Several activists from Hong Kong dove into the waters off the islands on a protest journey and one drowned in the territory.
2002- The Japanese ministry of internal affairs started renting some of the Kurihara-owned islands.
2004- A group of Chinese “Biaodiao movement” activists landed on one of the disputed islands. Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi ordered their deportation after 2 days.
2007- Japan denounced the attempted landing of Chinese nationalist militants from the “Biaodiao movement”.
2008- A Taiwanese fishing vessel and a boat from Japan Coast guard collided
2010- A Chinese fishing boat rammed 2 Japanese coast guard patrol boats off the islands. The boat’s captain was arrested but was released in 2 weeks after diplomatic debates.
2012- Tokyo governor Shintaro Ishihara announced he had reached a basic agreement to buy the Kurihara-owned islands.
September 2012- 81 Taiwanese trawlers accompanied by a dozen Taiwan Coast Guard patrol boats patrolled off the islands to defend the sovereignty of the Republic of China on the islands and Taiwan’s fishing rights in the area.
As one can see from the timeline, the dispute over the island had lasted for over a century. Its background is very complicated from different eras from the two countries. Throughout the years of wars and disputes, the situation gets even more complicated over time. This is the most comprehensive timeline that could be put together given the nature of the long dispute. From this timeline, which country should take control of the islands?