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Since 1968, when oil reserves were found in the inhabited islands by United Nations Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East (ECAFE) , there has been a dispute of sovereignty between n Japan, the People’s Republic of China and Taiwan. China claims that they have been controlling the island even before the discovery of oil from the 14th century. However, Japan assumed control in 1875 and only surrendered the islands to the USA after the Second World War in 1946. The US was controlling the islands as part of the United States Civil Administration of the Ryukyu Islands. In 1971 the US and Japan, through the Okinawa Reversion Treaty agreed to return the administration of the islands back to Japan.

The island has caused a string of diplomatic difficulties between Japan, the People’s Republic of China and Taiwan. Geographically, it was agreed that the islands were part of Taiwan. They fall in the county of Yilan, Toucheng Township. However, Japan does not recognize Taiwan as a sovereign country. It therefore does not acknowledge the claims of both countries. Japan considers the islands as part of Ishigaki, Okinawa Prefecture. Even though so, Ishigaski is not allowed to conduct developmental projects on the islands.

Back in the 1970s the son of a Japanese businessman by the name Koga Tatsushiro sold four islets of the islands to Kunioki Kurihara. He now owned Uotsuri, Kita-Kojima, and Minami-Kojima. Kunioki's sister owns Kuba.Records show that at one point when the Japanese government officials wanted to conduct a survey on the island, they had to part with 25 million Japanese Yens in rent. They wanted to find out if the island supported human life. They found sheep and moles, and that was a slight indication that it could support human life.

The Japanese government solely owns Taisho Island and rents Kuba Island for an undisclosed amount of money. However, the US uses Kuba Island as a military training ground. It is used for aircraft bombing range practices.

Last year, the Japanese governments announced plans of total acquisition of Uotsuri, Kita-Kojima and Minami Kojima islands from the Kurihara family. Thee governments spent 2.5 billion yens to purchase the four islands and therefore assumed total control. However, this did not auger well with the Chinese government as they felt that their sovereignty right had been violated.

The dispute of these islands between the Chinese and Japanese governments has gone down to marine boundaries. There is a continental shelf of about 100-150 meters in depth surrounding the islands, except for the Okinawa trough. This trough has complicated the boundary issues since the Japanese government argue that the trough is just an accidental geographical depression at it should therefore be ignored. On the other hand, the People’s Republic of China claims that the continental shelves of the two countries are not connected. The trough serves as a boundary between them and therefore it should not be ignored. This strategically put the Senkaku Islands in their geographical territory.

On their part, the People’s Republic of China and Taiwan claim that the islands have been part of their territory dating back in the 14th century. They acknowledge the fact that the Japanese government assumed control in 1895 following the Treaty of Shimonoseki. This was after the Sino-Japanese war. They claim that through the Potsdam Declaration, China is the one vested with the responsibility of controlling the islands. The declaration, which was part of the San Francisco Peace Treaty, only left Japan with Honshu, Shikoku, Hokkaido and Kyushu. Japan has consistently refuted the claims and to date, the sovereignty of the islands is still dispute.

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