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Japan's Territorial Disputes

Compiled July 2005

Tokdo/Tokto/Dokdo/Takeshima Islands

Japan refers to this group of islets as Takeshima, and South Korea calls them Dokdo or Tokdo or Tokto (depending on the Romanization system used). Control over the islets means control over fishing grounds and possible undersea energy resources.

The Issue of Takeshima
This March 2004 position paper by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan presents Japan 's "consistent position" on the issue, and its assertions concerning the sovereignty of the Takeshima islands.

The Territorial Dispute over Dokdo
Produced by Mark Lovmo, an elementary school teacher in Egan, Minnesota, this site includes a great deal of information and analysis surrounding the rival territorial claims of South Korea and Japan to the islets. Some bias toward the South Korean claim is evident. This site also includes a photo and map of the region.

Takeshima Is Japanese Territory
Produced by General Affairs Division of the Shimane Prefectural Government, this website contains pages entitled: About Takeshima; Establishing Territorial Rights as Soon as Possible; Historically, Takeshima belongs to Japan; International Law States that Takeshima Belongs to Japan; and Chronological Table of Takeshima.

Editorial: Takeshima Day Approved
This editorial in the Asahi Shimbun notes the uproar in South Korea when the Shimane prefectural assembly declared February 22 as Takeshima Day. It suggests that Japan must be careful to keep the situation under control and asks South Korea to think calmly about the issue.


Variously referred to as "islands" (Japan) a coral reef, or a "bunch of rocks" (China), Okinotori is located about 1,100 miles south of Tokyo and is claimed by China and by Japan (under the jurisdiction of the Tokyo Municipal Government). The waters around Okinotori are rich in oil and other resources. The Chinese are said to be interested in the region because American naval forces sailing from Guam would pass through this region if they were to approach Taiwan. For a map, see

Policy Speech by the Governor of Tokyo, Shintaro Ishihara, at the Second Regular Session of the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly, 2005. 2005/0615/fgf6f101.htm

The Governor of Tokyo, Shintaro Ishihara, briefly describes the geopolitical importance of Okinotori, which lies approximately midway between Guam and Taiwan. He also mentions the region's natural resources and his reasons for his recent visit to the island.

Tokyo Governor Stirs Reef Dispute
BBC News article that notes that the governor of Tokyo is attempting to strengthen Japan 's claims to the islands (of which only a few square meters remains dry at high tide) by fostering economic activity in the area. Posted May 20, 2005.

Exclusive Economic Zone in Question: Japan to Protest China Survey near Okinotori
An article on Okinotori from the Japan Times Online about China 's "violations" of Japan 's exclusive economic activity zone (EEZ) surrounding the island. China maintains that Okinotori is not large enough to qualify as an "island" according to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, thus Japan cannot claim an EEZ. Posted May 10, 2004.

Chinese Ships Roam around Okinotori Islands at Will
This Japan Today article mentions that China "invaded" Japan 's territorial waters 12 times in 2004. It offers Japan 's case for its claim to the region. As with other articles in Japan Today, this one includes a discussion forum that presents a range of thoughts on the issue. Posted December 8, 2004.

China Responds to Japan 's Repeated Protest Concerning Okinotori Waters
Article in People's Daily online that states China 's position. Posted December 11, 2004.

Relations with China
This page discusses Japan 's relations with China since 1972. The Country Studies series site contains the online versions of books previously published in hard copy by the Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress under the Country Studies/Area Handbook Program.

China and Japan : Rival Giants china_japan/html/introduction.stm
This website looks at the issues that lie behind relations between Japan and China.

Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands

Located about 250 miles west of Okinawa, the Senkaku Islands (the Chinese call them the Diaoyu) are claimed by both China and Japan. The waters surrounding the islands are oil-rich and near key international shipping routes. See for a map.

The Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands Dispute
Presents an essay dated 18 October 1996 that provides background information and details about the flair-up of tensions in 1996. Written by Daniel Dzurek of the International Boundaries Research Unit, which works to enhance the resources available for the peaceful resolution of problems associated with international boundaries on land and at sea.

The Basic View on the Sovereignty over the Senkaku Islands
Brief, one-page account of Japan 's claim to the Senkaku Islands from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan.

The China-Japan Clash over the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands
This Japan Focus article by Koji Taira presents detailed background information about the conflict.

Japan Stokes China Sea Dispute
Article from BBC News about the Japanese government awarding oil drilling rights in a region of the China Sea claimed by both Japan and China.

Kurile Islands/ Northern Territories

The Kurile (or Kuril) Islands stretch some 700 miles from Hokkaido (the northernmost of Japan 's four main islands) to Kamchatka. Japan claims the four southernmost islands in the chain. The inability of Japan and Russia to resolve this dispute is the main reason why, 60 years after the end of World War II, the two countries have yet to sign a peace treaty formally ending hostilities. The waters around the islands are a rich fishing ground. See for a map of the region.

Kurile Islands
This case study, produced by the Inventory of Conflict and Environment (ICE), intends to provide a common basis and method for looking at issues of conflict and environment. It notes that the territorial dispute is both a political and an economic issue.

Japan's Northern Territories
Presents the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs' position paper on the dispute. Sections of the website include: Overview of the Issue of the Northern Territories ; Japan 's Northern Territories (Pamphlet); Foreign Policy Q&A (Circumstances of the Negotiations Regarding the Northern Territories Issue); and Joint Compendium of Documents on the History of Territorial Issue between Japan and Russia.

Japan-Russia Dispute over Northern Territories Highlights Flawed Diplomacy
This April 2005 Japan Focus article by Gregory Clark (vice president of Akita International University and a former Moscow-based Australian diplomat) locates Japan-Russian conflicts over the Northern Territories/Kurils within the broader parameters of shifting regional and global relations.

Compiled by Roger Sensenbaugh

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