However, the Japanese dismiss this version. They contend that Senkaku/Diaoyu was discovered by Japan in 1884. Then Senkaku/Diaoyu showed no traces of Chinese control, nor did China protest any activity by the Japanese on the islands. It was made a part of Okinawa in 1895 and markers erected. Okinawa was carved from the Ryukuku Islands (once an independent sovereign kingdom incorporated into Japan as Ryuku-han in 1872). The Japanese contend that Senkaku/Diaoyu was never “transferred to Japan via Treaty of Shimonoseki” as the Chinese claim.
Seemingly, both versions have some validity. Professor Kimie Hara of the University of Waterloo (Canada) provides a more nuanced understanding, not stark black-and-white, as either party contend. Hara traces the dispute to the complex post-war San Francisco Peace Treaty (1951) that came to dictate Japan in the post-war period. Hara says that simply understood, the heart of the dispute is whether Senkaku/Diaoyu is part of Japan’s Okinawa prefecture or whether it should have been renounced under the San Francisco Peace Treaty as part of Taiwan.
Hara notes that Senkaku (and Okinawa) were placed under US control under Article 3 of the peace treaty. The US relinquished its administrative rights over Senkaku in 1972, but despite “reversion” remained stationed in Okinawa. Japan’s residual sovereignty over Senkaku/Diaoyu was recognised by successive Presidents—Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson. But Nixon made a departure.
Nixon famously charted “ping-pong” diplomacy (beginning with the exchange of ping pong teams between China and America in 1972, aimed at normalisation of relations). As Sino-American relations began to thaw, Nixon chose to adopt “no position on sovereignty”. US presence continued in Okinawa, with Nixon playing both sides under “defence of Japan” and “defence from Japan”.
China and Japan normalised relations in 1972. But there have been notable flashpoints such as in 1978, the year the Treaty of Peace and Friendship was signed between the two countries. Matters reached a head when 80 Chinese fishing boats suddenly approached the islands. According to Daniel Trietak, associate professor at York University (Canada), Japan “unequivocally established control over the islands” despite the bout of China’s “fish-boat diplomacy”.
Thereafter, the dispute began to pan out with