Bear in mind, the islands were effectively terra nullius
until the Japanese formally annexed them in 1895. The Chinese claim is based on the Treaty of Shimonoseki 1895, which transferred "the island of Formosa [Taiwan], together with all islands appertaining or belonging to the said island of Formosa
(emphasis mine)" to Japanese control, unhelpfully without specifying what those islands were
. The Treaty of Shimonoseki and which was reversed in 1945 with the Treaty of San Francisco, returning, again "all islands appertaining or belonging to the said island of Formosa" to China. The key question being: are the Pinnacle Islands (I'll use the Western name as a neutral term for them) "islands appertaining or belonging to the said island of Formosa" for the purposes of the Treaty of San Francisco and thus, are they owed to China under its terms?
I would probably answer that no, the Treaty of San Francisco did not intend to transfer the Pinnacle Islands to China. When trying to determine the construction of any legal instrument - from a contract to an international treary - it is helpful to look at the intentions and subsequent actions of those who drafted them. The two main parties here, China and the United Statesnote
, did not at the time act as if the Pinnacle Islands were Chinese. Post-war, the United States administered them until 1972 as part of their post-war administration of Okinawa and the Ryukyu Islands, rather than place them under KMT control like they did with Taiwan and its surrounding islands. For it's part, China did not actually claim the islands until 1971, a year before the US occupation ended and, I imagine not coincidentally, two years after the United Nations Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East, announced that there might be lots of sticky black gold underneath them.
This isn't a case of Japan holding onto imperial possessions past their sell-by date; the Japanese claim is equally as strong as the PRC/ROC claim, if not more so. Personally, I would prefer international arbitration - send the case to the International Court of Justice in the Hague and let them sort it out.
EDIT: Maybe we should change this thread to something about all Asian maritime disputes - there's lots to talk about re: the Spratly Islands
, the Paracel Islands
, and the Liancourt Rocks.
The last is disputed between South Korea (which has control) and Japan. The ferry between Korea and the Rocks show this totally not racist
video of Korea defending the islands against Japanese invaders with Humongous Mecha
edited 1st Dec '13 1:47:07 AM by Achaemenid