The eight uninhabited islands and rocks in question lie in the East China Sea. They have a total area of about 7 sq km and lie northeast of Taiwan, east of the Chinese mainland and southwest of Japan's southern-most prefecture, Okinawa.
They matter because they are close to strategically important shipping lanes, offer rich fishing grounds and are thought to contain oil deposits. The islands are controlled by Japan.
In Asia demand for power and fuel is fast outstripping supply. Given its vast and growing economy China has been at the top of the food chain when it came to energy production and consumption. And as the world digs ever deeper for oil and natural gas to keep it going one cannot ignore a source; especially when it is on its very doorstep.
The problem has no clear winner as each side has its own story and claims and is unwilling to step down or try to cooperate. Considering the volatile state of the relations between the four players a solution to please all will be a most daunting task.
China’s claim on the islands is based on historical facts. Even though Japan incorporated the islands on the bases of terra nullius, 500 years before the Chinese had discovered the islands and had included them in the costal defense system, along with the island of Formosa (Taiwan), against the Japanese pirates.
After the conclusion of the Sino-Japanese war in 1895 and the signing of the Treaty of Shimonoseki ,, The island of Formosa and all islands belonging to it” were ceded to Japan. Yet after the end of the Second World War the islands were not returned to China, but rather placed under U.S administration until 1972 when they were handed over to Japan.
Several documents support the Chinese position: the 1943 Cairo Declaration, the 1945 Potsdam Declaration, the 1951 San Francisco Treaty and the 1953 Peace Treaty between China and Japan.
To ensure that the negotiation...