China, Japan island fight reignites with population push

The Japanese government recently announced plans to populate a cluster of minute, rocky islands located almost equidistant between Okinawa and Taiwan — a move that has reignited a decades-long dispute with China over sovereignty of the tiny territories.

According to Japanese officials, the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe plans next month to legally designate the Senkaku Islands – known in China as the Diaoyu Islands – as inhabited border territories. Amid the goals of the plan, which stems from a law passed last year, is a call for the construction of civic facilities, the purchasing of land, the improvement of ports and stopping foreign vessels from illegally visiting the islands.

Along with the Senkaku Islands, Japan will also designate another 143 remote islands – with 71 receiving special attention for their isolation and population decline – as part of a plan to secure the country’s sprawling archipelago of around 6,800 islands from the dual threat of territory-hungry neighbors and a long-term decrease in population.

“Prime Minister Abe is very conservative and a nationalist,” Zhiqun Zhu, a political science professor and director of the China Institute at Bucknell University, told Fox News. “So this move is not very surprising, but it’s going to be counterproductive in terms of relations with China.”

The Senkaku Islands – a chain of five uninhabited islets and three barren rocks in the East China Sea – were uninhabited until 1895 when Japan laid claim to them. In the ensuing decades, the Japanese populated the chain and even set up a fish-processing plant on one of the islands.

“The Government of Japan made a Cabinet Decision on January 14, 1895, to erect markers on the islands to formally incorporate the Senkaku Islands into the territory of Japan,” Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated. “These measures were carried out in accordance with the internationally accepted means of duly acquiring territorial sovereignty under international law.”

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