On September 21 the City of Ishigaki, in Japan‘s Okinawa Prefecture, announced a plan to change the official name of a group of disputed islands currently known as “Tonoshiro, Ishigaki City.” The Japan Times reports that Ishigaki mayor Yoshitaka Nakayama will submit a proposal to rename the islands “Senkaku, Ishigaki City” to the city assembly for discussion in December and that the name change is likely to be approved.
China claims the uninhabited islets, which it calls “Diaoyu”, as part of its territory. China’s Foreign Ministry maintains that “Diaoyu Island and its surrounding islands (钓鱼岛及其附属岛屿) are an inherent part of China’s territory” and that Beijing has “ample historical and legal evidence” of its sovereignty claims over the islands.
In response to Japan’s announcement, on September 21 China dispatched a formation of four coast guard warships to patrol the Diaoyu Islands. At around 10 a.m the ships entered Japanese waters around the islands and were urged by the Japanese coast guard to leave immediately.
China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying stated that Diaoyu Island and surrounding islands have been part of China’s territory “since ancient times” and called Chinese naval patrols around the islands “lawful”.
The Senkaku Islands are a group of eight uninhabited islets in the East China Sea, located approximately 200km northeast of Taiwan and 300km west of Okinawa. In 1895 the Japanese government annexed them to its territory as part of Okinawa Prefecture.
After World War II the islands were administered by the United States. In 1968 a survey conducted by the United Nations Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East estimated that large oil reserves might be found around the islands. On June 1971 the ROC claimed sovereignty over the Senkaku Islands, followed in December of the same year by the PRC. In 1972, according to the Agreement on the reversion of Okinawa, the United States returned the Senkaku Islands to Japan.
In 2012 massive anti-Japanese protests erupted in China when the Japanese government nationalized three of the largest islands, purchasing them from private owners for over US$25 million.
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