Fact Sheet on the Senkaku Islands

November, 2012
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0. The Senkaku Islands are an inherent part of the territory of Japan (Japan's Basic Position)

  • The Senkaku Islands are an inherent part of the territory of Japan, in light of historical facts and based upon international law. Indeed, the Senkaku Islands are under the valid control of the Government of Japan. ((note) For location of the islands, see Attachment1 [PDF])
  • "Rule of law"is the basis for global peace, stability and prosperity. Any state has a responsibility to protect peace, ensure the safety of its people, and protect its sovereignty, territorial land and sea, and Japan will fulfill such responsibilities based on international law.

1. The Senkaku Islands were not included in the territory that Japan renounced under Article II of the San Francisco Peace Treaty

  • The Senkaku Islands were not included in the territory that Japan renounced under Article II of the San Francisco Peace Treaty, which legally defined Japan's postwar territory. Under the treaty, the Senkaku Islands were placed under the administration of the United States of America as part of the Nansei Shoto Islands (in accordance with Article III).
  • The San Francisco Peace Treaty was recognized in the Sino-Japanese Peace Treaty Japan concluded in 1952 with the Republic of China (Taiwan). There was no discussion on the territorial sovereignty of the Senkaku Islands throughout the course of the negotiations. People's Republic of China also expressed no objection about it at that time.
  • The administrative rights over the Nansei Shoto Islands including the Senkaku Islands reverted to Japan in accordance with the Agreement between Japan and the United States of America Concerning the Ryukyu Islands and the Daito Islands signed on 17 June 1971.

2. China and Taiwan started making their own assertions about the "territorial sovereignty"over the Senkaku Islands only after the possibility of existence of petroleum resources was indicated

  • It was not until 1971, after the United Nations Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East (ECAFE) conducted an academic survey which indicated the possibility of the existence of petroleum resources on the East China Sea in 1968, that the Government of China and Taiwan authorities officially began to make their own assertions about "territorial sovereignty"of the Senkaku Islands. Prior to this, absolutely no objections had been expressed by any country or region to Japan's sovereignty over the Senkaku Islands.

3. There has been no agreement about "shelving"the issue

  • Japan's position is that there exists no issue of territorial sovereignty to be resolved concerning the Senkaku Islands.
  • In the course of negotiations of the Japan-China Joint Communique in 1972 and the Japan-China Treaty of Peace and Friendship in 1978, Japan never recognized the existence of an issue to be solved on the territorial sovereignty over the Senkaku Islands. This position of Japan has clearly been indicated to China on various occasions including during the negotiations on Treaty of Peace and Friendship in 1978. Therefore, it is not true that there has been an agreement with the Chinese side about "shelving" or "maintaining the status quo" regarding the Senkaku Islands.

4. Refuting China's groundless assertions

  • From 1885, surveys of the Senkaku Islands had been thoroughly conducted by the Government of Japan through the agencies of Okinawa Prefecture and through other means. Through these surveys, it was confirmed that the Senkaku Islands had been not only uninhabited but also showed no trace of having been under the control of China. Based on this confirmation, the Government of Japan made a Cabinet Decision on 14 January 1895 to erect a marker on the Islands to formally incorporate the Senkaku Islands into the territory of Japan (see Attachment 2 [PDF]). These measures were carried out in accordance with the internationally accepted means of duly acquiring territorial sovereignty under international law (occupation of terra nullius).
  • A resident of Okinawa Prefecture who had been engaging in commercial activities such as fishing around the Senkaku Islands made an application for the lease of the islands, and approval was granted by the Meiji Government in 1896. After this approval, he sent workers to the islands and ran several businesses: collecting bird feathers, manufacturing dried bonito, collecting coral, raising cattle, manufacturing canned goods and collecting mineral phosphate guano (bird manure for fertilizer use). The fact that the Meiji Government gave approval concerning the use of the Senkaku Islands to the individual, who in turn was able to openly run these businesses based on the approval, demonstrates Japan's valid control over the Islands.
  • Since their incorporation, the Senkaku Islands have continuously remained as an integral part of the Nansei Shoto Islands which are part of the territory of Japan, and have been under the valid control of Japan. These islands were not part of Taiwan or the Pescadores Islands which were ceded to Japan from the Qing Dynasty of China in accordance with Article II of the Treaty of Shimonoseki, in effect from May 1895. Moreover, the Cabinet Decision, made in January 1895, to incorporate the Senkaku Islands into the territory of Japan preceded the Treaty of Shimonoseki, which was signed in April 1895, and came into effect in May 1895. Therefore, the criticism that Japan seized the Senkaku Islands as a result of the Sino-Japanese War is completely unfounded.
  • Although China insists that it has historically owned the Senkaku Islands since Ming Dynasty, none of the arguments that the Chinese government or Taiwanese authorities have presented as historical, geographic or geological grounds is valid evidence under international law to support the Chinese assertions. Under international law, for example, the discovery of an island or geographical proximity alone does not evidence the assertion of territorial sovereignty.
  • There is a description of "the Senkaku Islands, Yaeyama District, Okinawa Prefecture, Empire of Japan" in a letter of appreciation dated May 1920, sent from the then consul of the Republic of China in Nagasaki concerning the distress around the Senkaku Islands which had involved Chinese fishermen from Fujian Province (see Attachment 3 [PDF]). In addition, an article in the People's Daily dated 8 January 1953, under the title of "Battle of people in the Ryukyu Islands against the U.S. occupation", made clear that the Ryukyu Islands "consist of 7 groups of islands [including] the Senkaku Islands"(see Attachment 4 [PDF]). Moreover, for example, "The Republic of China New Atlas" published in China in 1933 (see Attachment 5 [PDF]) and "World Atlas" published in China in 1958 (see Attachment 6 [PDF]: second printing in 1960) treated the Senkaku Islands as part of Japan.
  • While China claims that the Senkaku Islands were returned to China in accordance with the "Cairo Declaration"and the "Potsdam Declaration,"and that Japan is challenging the results of World War II, Japan's acquisition of sovereignty over the Senkaku Islands has no connection whatsoever with World War II. The San Francisco Peace Treaty which legally defined Japan's territory after World War II and other relevant treaties treated the Senkaku Islands as part of the territory that had already belonged to Japan.?
    To be more concrete, Japan renounced territorial sovereignty over Formosa (Taiwan) and the Pescadores that had been ceded by China after the Sino-Japanese War, in accordance with Article 2 (b) of the San Francisco Peace Treaty. Under the Treaty, it is clear that the Senkaku Islands were not included in "Formosa and the Pescadores", since the United States actually exercised administrative rights over the Senkaku Islands as part of the Nansei Shoto Islands in accordance with Article 3 of the San Francisco Peace Treaty. Furthermore, these administrative rights reverted to Japan in 1972 in accordance with the Japan-U.S. Agreement concerning the Ryuku Islands and the Daito Islands.
    Moreover, prior to the 1970s, China had not expressed any objections, including the fact that the Senkaku Islands were placed under U.S. administrative control under Article 3.

5. Japan has been making efforts to make East China Sea a "sea of peace, cooperation and friendship"

  • While the Exclusive Economic Zone and the Continental Shelf of East China Sea are yet to be delimited between Japan and China, Japan and China have been engaged in dialogue and cooperation regarding East China Sea.
  • In recent years, China has actively made inroads into surrounding seas, and has taken provocative actions around the Senkaku Islands. China enacted a Law on the Territorial Sea and the Contiguous Zone in 1992 which clearly stipulates that the Senkaku Islands belong to China. Since December 2008, when two Chinese Government vessels intruded into the territorial sea of the Senkaku Islands, China has intensified activities in waters surrounding the islands, causing mounting concerns in Japan.
  • Under these circumstances, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government planned to purchase the Senkaku Islands and develop a variety of facilities on them. There is no doubt that the Senkaku Islands are clearly an inherent territory of Japan in light of historical facts and based upon international law, but from a broad perspective, in an effort to minimize any negative impact on the bilateral relations, the Government of Japan decided to purchase the three islands (Uotsuri Island, Kitakojima Island, and Minamikojima Island) of the Senkaku Islands and transferred the ownership of the islands from a private citizen to itself under domestic civil law in September 2012.
  • The property rights of the three islands were previously held by the Government of Japan until 1932 when a private Japanese citizen acquired them. The Government of Japan's decision to reacquire the property rights to the islands has resulted in a nominal transfer of real property under domestic law, which is not a major change of the current situation. Moreover, the Government of Japan has consistently retained ownership of Taishoto Island, which is also part of the Senkaku Islands.
  • The intent by the Government of Japan in acquiring the three islands is to continue to ensure their peaceful and stable maintenance and management over the long term, while implementing appropriate maritime navigation safety operations in and around the Senkaku Islands. This is simply a transfer of the property rights within Japan's territory from the former private owner to the Government of Japan under a legitimate procedure within Japan's domestic legal framework and thus should not raise any issues with other countries or regions.
  • The Japan-China relationship is highly valued as one of the most important bilateral relationships to Japan. China's constructive role is essential for the stability and prosperity of the Asia Pacific region. Japan does not wish to see this issue adversely affect overall Japan-China relations. Japan aims to further deepen the mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests with China, and to advance cooperation on regional stability. Japan will strengthen cooperation towards making the East China Sea a "sea of peace, cooperation and friendship"by promoting mutual understanding and trust between the maritime authorities of the two countries through the "Japan-China High-Level Consultation on Maritime Affairs"under the "Six Initiatives"that were agreed between the two countries.

6. Under no circumstances should acts of violence be condoned

  • It is extremely regrettable that anti-Japanese protests occurred in numerous regions in China, resulting in stones and other hazardous objects being thrown at Japanese diplomatic establishments, acts of violence targeting Japanese nationals, as well as arson, destruction, and looting of Japanese-affiliated companies.
  • Under no circumstances should acts of violence be condoned. With the shared interests of the international community in mind, Japan calls on differing opinions to be expressed in a calm and peaceful manner.

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