While reading an article on China’s new hardline policies towards the Senkaku Islands, I decided to do some research– and found some interesting technicalities.
Let’s revisit the history: the islands were first used as navigational markers by the Chinese to travel to the Ryuukyuu Kingdom (which covered a string of islands south of Kyuushuu). After the First Sino-Jap War, Japan annexed these uninhabited islands in 1895. In 1900, some Japanese entrepreneur actually built a business on the islands, and somehow gained possession of them. The business failed, and the guy’s son sold the islands to some prominent family on the mainland. But after WW2…
The Potsdam Declaration (1945, WW2) declared that “Japanese sovereignty shall be limited to the islands of Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, Shikoku, and such minor islands as [US, GB, ROC] determine”.
That means we have to ask the US, Great Britain, and the Republic of China about whether Japan has sovereignty over the Senkaku.
Great Britain didn’t take part in reconstruction. They’re out of the picture.
The USA assumed jurisdiction over the islands during reconstruction of Japan. Note that at this time there were no objections to the US’ occupation. The Okinawa Reversion Agreement was passed by the Senate in 1971, which agreed to return sovereignty of the Senkaku to Japan in 1972, when China and Taiwan starting staking claims.
But here’s what I found interesting. China right now, the People’s Republic of China, technically has no claim whatsoever on the islands. The Republic of China does.
Backtrack a bit to the Chinese Civil War following WW2. At the time, the recognized government was nationalist Chang Kai-Shek’s government. This was the Republic of China. Kai-Shek decided to be stupid during the war, and Mao Zedong and the communists destroyed him. Kai-Shek and the nationalists fled to Formosa (Taiwan), and reestablished the Republic of China there. Mao established the People’s Republic of China on the mainland.
Simply put, Communist China has no right to the islands. They were not mentioned in any of the treaties concerning the islands, because Communist China either did not exist or was not recognized at the time.
Then, what about Taiwan?
Taiwan is irrelevant. Taiwan is not a country. It is not recognized by an overwhelming majority of the UN, and is not a part of the UN. Most importantly, the US (#1 power in the world) doesn’t recognize it.
Thus, since China and Taiwan had no applicable claims, the land would be rendered terra nullius (as the US never claimed sovereignty when they took jurisdiction), and the return to Japan should be undisputed.
But even if you ignore these technicalities, the simple fact still stands. The USA had jurisdiction over the islands after World War 2. The USA gave the islands back to Japan. Japan’s national government bought the islands from the private owners.
The ROC (Taiwan) and PRC (China) have not even once placed a foot on the islands. Only Japanese have ever visited the islands (according to Wikipedia). It sounds kind of stupid to me. What’s next, Greenland claiming the Arctic?
Although Japan does some relatively stupid stuff every now and then (like visiting shrines of war criminals and trying to justify comfort women), I have to say that they’re in the right (no pun intended) on the topic of Senkaku here.
The PRC’s claims to China are not only rebuffed by my technicalities, but also by the support of the law, if you want the real technical explanation.
But here’s the problem: the PRC doesn’t care. And that’s why I’ll say, if WW3 is going to happen, it will be over some oil under a couple rocks in the ocean. And China will lose, because the US is number one.