U.S. Senkakus Return in ’72 upset Beijing, Taipei

The raging controversy over ownership of the Senkaku Islands in southern Okinawa Prefecture is a long brewing issue, stemming all the way back to the U.S. Reversion of Okinawa to Japan in 1972.

Declassified U.S. documents just released show that Taiwan and China had opposed the islands being handed back 40 years ago.  A 1971 diplomatic note from the Taiwanese government “requested the United States to exclude the Senkaku Islands from the reversion of Okinawa to Japan”, according to documents just released by the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.  They had recognized Japan’s administrative rights over the Senkakus, but withheld status of sovereignty out of consideration to China and Taiwan.

Documents show that the U.S. position was that Taiwan, China and Japan sovereignty “should be settled by the parties themselves.”  Based on the 1951 San Francisco Peace Treaty, the U.S. had held Okinawa under trusteeship until reversion took effect in 1972.

China and Taiwan did not begin claiming sovereignty rights to the islands until after United Nations studies in 1968 suggested there could be potentially vast and valuable oil reserves in the seabeds surrounding the Senkaku islets.  According to the U.S. documents, China began claiming sovereignty over the Senkakus in December 1970, while Taiwan did the same in February 1971.