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Asia-Pacific
Explainer: Behind the China-Japan island row
The territorial dispute between China and Japan over a chain of islands in the East China Sea.
Last Modified: 17 Sep 2012 13:07

As protests against Japan continue to escalate in China over a territorial dispute in the East China Sea, there is little evidence that either side is willing to back down.

At the centre of the row are eight small and uninhabited islands, known as the Senkaku Islands in Japan and the Diaoyu Islands in China.

Beijing has pledged to protect Japanese citizens and business interests, but at the same time warning Japan to correct its ways and that the direction of developments was now in Japan's hands.

Both countries are interested in the islands for their potentially valuable gas reserves.

Long-running dispute

Both sides point to 1895 as a key year in their complicated dispute over the islands.

Japan claims that in January that year - around the same time it defeated China and colonised Taiwan - that it had taken owenership of the islands.

Since then, Japan claims, the islands have remained part of the Nansei Shoto Islands.

It is also quick to point out that the uninhabited islands showed no trace of having been under the control of China's Qing Dynasty.

However, China claims the disputed islands have been part of its territory since "ancient times" and argues that Japan illegally took the islands in 1895 when it forced the Qing government to sign the Treaty of Shimonoseki.

After World War II, China claims it recovered territories occupied by Japan in accordance with the 1943 Cairo Declaration and the 1945 Potsdam Proclamation.

"According to international law, the Diaoyu Island and its affiliated islands have already been returned to China," China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs states on its website.

Japan claims that the islands in question were not included in territory it renounced under Article 2 of the 1951 San Francisco Peace Treaty.

Instead, it claims the islands were placed within US authority as part of the Nansei Shoto Islands under article 3 of the treaty and were reverted back to Japan in 1971 in an agreement between the US and Japan concerning the Ryukyu and the Daito islands.

In 1971, both China and Taiwan formally declared ownership of the islands.

Since then, diplomatic rows between the two countries have flared up and both sides appear to be no closer to resolving the matter.

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Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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