International Relations Paper


Write a research paper with no less than 15 pages. 
Topic is ” The territorial disputes between Japan and China”.
Please choose the “Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands” to write this issue.
Paper Format: APA, ASA, MLA or another accepted style for academic writing is required. Paper must include proper citations and references for sources used in the work.
Length and Mechanics: The paper should be roughly 15-20 pages in length. This assumes the paper is double-spaced and uses of standard font, size, and margins. 
Pages must be numbered in the header or footer. Name, Course information, and date of submission must appear on the top of the first page. 
Honor Code must be included.
actually my prof do not give me any more instruction. Even the sample <br /> paper is I find it by myself. This is an open mind research paper, only <br /> has a topic, but the topic is The territorial disputes between Japan and<br /> China —Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, it is very hot issue between these two<br /> countries. If the writer can be good at international relations, also <br /> can be good at history major. And before the writer begin, maybe the <br /> writer can give me an outline then to see if it can work well.Hi, Would u like to give me an outline first before u start writing? <br /> Then I can let my Prof check it to see if that is ok to keep writing. <br />


Possible Solutions to the Territorial Disputes between Japan and China Senkaku Diaoyu Islands


Introduction. 1

Overview of the Territorial Dispute. 2

Possible Courses of Action in the Pursuit of a Formative Agreement. 5

Possible Outcomes of the Dispute. 6

An Assessment of the Viability of Various Solutions. 8

Ways of Managing the Conflict in Anticipation of a Long-Term Resolution. 10

Conclusion. 13

Works Cited. 15


            The maritime dispute between China and Japan over the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands dates back to many decades. The main issue in the dispute has been on the ownership of sovereignty over the islands. In modern times, the dispute may be said to have been triggered by Japan’s move to claim sovereignty over the Islands in 1895 (Pan 73). Tensions arising from the dispute continued to exist after World War II, during which time it remained unclear where the demarcation line in East Asia ought to be under international law. To date, no solution has been found for the stalemate, and focus is primarily on ensuring that the dispute does not escalate into a full-blown military confrontation or worse, an all-out war (Fravel 149).


            A number of factors are at play in the dispute, and the main ones include economic interests, historical grievances, international law requirements, nationalism, and domestic politics. In this dispute, China claims that Diaoyu and its surrounding islands are an integral part of its territory. It supports its claims using legal terms, geographical considerations, and historical ties with the islands. China further argues that Japan’s longstanding claim on the islands is based on the developments of the Sino-Japanese War, which was fought between 1894 and 1895, whereby the country allegedly seized the islands from China through illegal means. China further argues that Japan’s claim to the islands was further reinforced when Washington placed them under its trusteeship after Japan occupied the islands after the war.

            In contrast, Japan’s claim on the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands is anchored on the argument that it surveyed them for a decade during the nineteenth century and found out that they were uninhabited, thereby occasioning a move by the country to erect a sovereign marker on it and to incorporate it into Japanese territory. When the World War II ended, the islands were put under U.S. trusteeship before the power of administration over them was finally returned to Japan in 1971. Japan insists that China did not raise objections when the islands were put under the trusteeship of the United States, and that it is only after the subject of oil resources in the islands emerged that China started pressing its claims. The latest development in the dispute occurred in September 2012 when Japan purchased three of the five islands. This move triggered protests in China, followed by a rapid build-up of potentially dangerous military activity by both countries near the disputed islands. The aim of this paper is to investigate possible solutions to the territorial dispute between China and Japan over the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands.

Overview of the Territorial Dispute

            The disputes over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands between Japan and China may be said to have started in 1895 following the Japanese annexation of the East Asian islands. However, the two countries did not consider the dispute a major issue until the discovery of hydrocarbon minerals in the sea areas surrounding the islands. In 1969, the United States and Japan reversed the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands to Japan by declaring it a part of Okinawa, which had already been put under Japanese sovereignty. In 1970, the Chinese government drafted a proposal to start exploiting the hydrocarbon resources in the seabed surrounding the Islands, which Japan declared invalid. These developments were followed by a decision by several Chinese citizens to visit the islands and plant the Chinese flag there. The United States was at first supportive of Japan’s claim but soon decided to take a neutral stance in the dispute as a way of improving relations with China.

            Since the islands were reverted to Okinawa, Japan has been sending its naval forces to prevent Chinese fishermen from venturing into the surrounding areas.  For example, in 1990, Taiwan sent two boats carrying athletes on a mission to plant an Olympic torch on the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, but were prevented from doing so by Japanese naval forces. This event triggered widespread protests in Hong Kong and Taiwan. Throughout the 1990s, related incidents continued to occur, with China’s sovereignty claims to the islands being reinforced through the enactment of a new law and Japan strongly protesting by declaring an exclusive economic zone covering the islands.

            By the turn of the twenty-first century, China had taken the dispute to a new level by maintaining physical presence within the disputed islands by sending naval vessels there. This move created a potentially dangerous situation, which culminated in an attack on two Chinese vessels by the Japanese naval forces in 2004. This development was followed by the detainment of seven Chinese activists who had toured the islands. By 2005, Japan had started working on plans in an effort to engage in natural gas exploration within the disputed areas. Since then, the dispute has continued to escalate, with both sides of the disputes trading accusations and counteraccusations. The tug of war arguably reached a crescendo in 2012 after Japan purchased three of the disputed islands, thereby triggering widespread demonstrations across China. This turn of events triggered concerns that the dispute would

            The most important concept in international law as far as the resolution of territorial disputes is concerned is sovereignty. International law recognizes sovereignty and treats it as a manifestation of independence. Sovereign states are the primary political units that are recognized internationally. International jurisprudence provides strong support to Japan’s claims. This is because the country’s move to extend its administrative structures in 1895 were public and peaceful. In this regard, it does not matter that the islands may not have been terra nullius at that time. For seven decades, Japan continues exercising administrative rights over the islands without any objections from China.

Based on this same provision, China’s arguments are weak because of the lack of clarity on whether its activities on the islands during the Qing and Ming dynasties were administrative in nature. According to international law, private persons cannot be relied upon in conferring a tag of sovereignty to a territory. Based on international case law, recent, long-standing demonstrations of sovereignty without any objection by a sovereign state always take precedence over claims of ownership of the territory based on occupation during ancient times. For example, during the 1920s, the United States lodged claims over the Island of Palmas, yet the Netherlands had for a long time continued to display sovereignty over the island. The ruling in this case went in favor of the Netherlands simply because of its long-standing, undisputed display of sovereignty.

The main convention whose provisions both Japan and China have been relying on to propagate their arguments is UNCLOS (Manjiao 164). Both countries have already ratified this convention. Both countries have been interpreting the provisions of UNCLOS in radically different ways. Japan argues that the equidistance approach should be used while China bases its arguments on the principle of the continental shelf. These contrasting claims demonstrate the overlap of maritime claims by the two Asian countries. Based on the continental shelf approach as described by Article 76 of UNCLOS, China is claiming sovereignty over 350 nautical miles from its coast. Japan opposes this interpretation by arguing that the continental shelf is merely a physical border. In Japan’s view, an equidistant line should be drawn westwards. If such an action was to be undertaken, the sovereignty of the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands would go to Japan. These contrasting argument reveal an underlying fact: that the resolution of the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands is closely interlinked with that of maritime borders between the two countries.

Possible Courses of Action in the Pursuit of a Formative Agreement

            Both China and Japan are motivated to ameliorate the dispute for mutual gains. For example, both countries intend to commence the process of exploiting oil and gas resources in the East China Sea as soon as the dispute is resolved (Liao 57). The first step towards a resolution would involve reaching a compromise on the possibility of joint development of the disputed areas’ resources. However, in China’s view, this decision must be anchored on Japan’s refrainment from interfering with China’s ongoing exploitation of oil and gas fields on all areas that are within its jurisdiction. Thus, joint development activities would be carried out in areas surrounding the disputed islands as well as the area defined by the median-line claim.


Currently, the two countries have already put in place structures that continue to facilitate the exploitation of fisheries resources. These structures should continue to be promoted particularly in the exploitation of oil and gas resources without any regard to the location of the maritime boundary. Such an arrangement provides some reassurance that each party will secure its share of the resources once the boundary dispute is finally settled. Moreover, it would enhance bilateral relations, thereby creating an avenue for joint efforts in the pursuit of the common objective of harnessing the full economic potential of the disputed areas.

            The second step would ideally involve agreeing that the territory under dispute, in this case the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, cannot be dragged into claims over the continental shelf or the exclusive economic zone. If the two countries agree on this issue, it will be easy to draw a line between sovereignty claims and sovereignty claims. Conversely, failure to reach an agreement on the element of sovereignty may pose a long-standing obstacle in the resolution of the boundary dispute.

            The third step would involve an agreement on how to forge a common front in addressing aspects of both the continental shelf and the EEZ. In this case, most of the conceding would have to originate from the Chinese side. Japan would also need to play a part in the compromise by compensating China by way of shifting the boundary in its favor. The alternative source of concession would involve adjusting the terms of the joint development plan in favor of China. The only major drawback of this arrangement is that it would create a politically complex situation that leaves ample room for deterioration of relations between the two countries in the future. To deal with this challenge, the disputants should address issues relating to the two boundaries separately because of differences in the principles to be applied. Such agreements are highly likely to dissipate the volatile political situation over the disputed territories. Moreover, the agreements will possibly create an ideal political situation for both sides to pursue viable options that may lead to a lasting resolution of the dispute.

Possible Outcomes of the Dispute

            There are many possible outcomes in the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands dispute, and this phenomenon may be attributed to the jurisdictional complexity of the territorial dispute (Donaldson and Williams 5). According to UNCLOS, every state reserves the right to lay claim to a maritime area extending 12 nautical miles from its mainland. The baselines to be used in measuring this distance should be determined according to the provisions of this convention. In the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands dispute, the disputants would first and foremost need to reach an agreement regarding the establishment of the territorial area extending 12 nautical miles from the disputed islands. Once this area is demarcated, the disputants would need to make a decision on whether to flag it as a no-go zone pending future resolution of the dispute or use it for joint development of available resources.

The task of demarcating the 12-nautical miles stretch of territory is a complex one because it involves consideration to several other territorial disputes in the East China Sea. One of them relates to the joint development zone that under the control of Japan and South Korea, which is currently being claimed by China. For this first outcome to be achieved, China would need to forego its claim to this joint development zone. Even China made this compromise, the situation would still be complicated by a decision to use the equidistance principle in some of the areas around the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands. Things may also become complicated if the Dandong prefecture dispute between China and South Korea is brought to bear on the resolution. The Dandong prefecture is under China’s control but is being claimed by South Korea.

Another option would involve setting up a boundary after dividing the disputed area into North Zone and South Zone. This option would require the use of the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands as the baseline for the equidistance line defining the areas that should be set aside for joint development. The option would also involve taking into consideration the joint development zone that is shared by Japan and South Korea. The alternative to this option is one whereby the joint development zone would be in the North Zone. In the process of drawing the equidistance line, the main factor to consider would be coastline proportionality.

A different option may involve creating a joint development zone across the region that has been affected by the Diaoyu/Senkaku territorial dispute. This option would necessitate the drawing up an equidistance line that clearly identifies Chinese territories positioned between the mainland and the undisputed Japanese territory. Under different circumstances, the disputants may consider assessing the viability of using aspects of both joint development and a boundary. In the case of establishing a maritime boundary, both parties would need to enter into negotiations in order to generate a criterion for determine what each side will get when the joint venture finally commences.

An Assessment of the Viability of Various Solutions

            It is probable that Japan and China may agree on one of the possible solutions, thereby ending the Diaoyu/Senkaku dispute. However, some options are easier to agree to than other depending on the principle being applied. For example, the disputants may easily embrace the use of the equidistance principle mainly because the length of Chinese and Japanese coastlines on the disputed side are more or less equal. The unfortunate thing is that China would be keen not to put itself in a disadvantaged position as far as its continental-shelf argument is concerned. Going by China’s assertive behavior in its pursuit of favorable resolutions in its other maritime disputes, one should not rule out a situation where the country insists on the use of the prolongation principle. Furthermore, China is relying on this same principle to argue its case in these other territorial disputes.


            In the South Zone, difficulties in reaching an agreement may arise primarily because the disputants would first and foremost be compelled to resolve existing sovereignty disputes over various land masses, notably the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands. On the other hand, it may be possible but fairly difficult for China and Japan to agree on the boundaries of the exclusive economic zone. Fortunately, both countries have ratified the UNCLOS treaty of 1982, meaning that they have a formidable framework for reaching an agreement regarding the nature of the features. For example, if they agree that the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands are merely rocks that cannot sustain human existence, it would be easier for them to draw a line that puts sovereignty issues on one side of the dispute and issues of continental shelf and exclusive economic zone on the other side.

            The United States and Taiwan would also make an important contribution to the resolution of the dispute. For instance, the United States would be required to team up with China and Japan in an attempt to influence Taiwan to abandon its claims on islands that on the basis of the equidistance line are on the side of Japan. In this case, the assumption is that Japan and China would already have agreed on the use of the equidistance principle to resolve the dispute. In such a scenario, the two disputants would need to abandon the Diaoyu/Senkaku dispute momentarily as they seek to resolve issues relating to the equidistance principle.

            The United States also needs to do more in terms of acknowledging that China, rather than Taiwan, is the sole legitimate party to the dispute over the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands (Chao and Tian 25). Such a move would greatly influence Japan’s decision to make a similar acknowledgment, which would potentially lead to a drastic improvement of relations with China. After all, it would be in the best interest of the United States for an agreement between the two Asian countries to be reached. All parties would be highly motivated to reach for an agreement mainly because of the disputed areas are rich in oil and gas. An agreement in the areas that have been affected by overlapping claims would benefit all the stakeholders because it would pave the way for the commencement of a joint development program spanning across the disputed area. This approach has been embraced by the various countries that are involved in a dispute over various islands in the South China Sea.

Ways of Managing the Conflict in Anticipation of a Long-Term Resolution

An appraisal of the aforementioned options shows that it is highly unlikely for the dispute over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands to be resolved quickly. This is because the two countries have not yet put in place a formidable framework of negotiations (Pan 187). Thus, the best course of action is one that promotes efficient management of the dispute to ensure that it does not escalate into a war. Towards this end, the main shortcoming in the past has been the claimants’ failure to understand that domestic political situations have a strong influence on the statements that governments make or the actions that they take (He 2). Indeed, nationalist sentiments have been a major driving force in the debate on how the dispute can be resolved. In such a situation, it becomes extremely difficult for either party to make compromises.

            Similarly, individual citizens have also made immense contributions to the escalation of the dispute. For example, in 1978, nationalist groups from Japan erected a lighthouse on the islands as a way of demonstrating Japanese sovereignty over them. A similar move was made by rightist nationalist in 1996, who replaced the existing lighthouse with a taller one. This action triggered a move by Taiwanese and Chinese nationalists, who went to the islands to demonstrate the two countries’ claims over the territories. It is unfortunate that the governments of the countries whose citizens engage in such provocative behavior tend to condone it. Such a situation creates the impression that the nationalists are simply acting on behalf of the government. In most cases, the leaders of those governments disapprove of such behavior but refrain from expressing their views publicly for fear of political backlash. In such a situation, the best course of action is to communicate with the rival disputants, expressly indicating that they disapprove of such actions.

            A crucial observation that one can make in the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands dispute is that none of the disputants has taken the case to any international court for adjudication. This means that both China and Japan have confidence in preventive diplomacy. Thus, there is great potential in the use of preventive democracy for conflict avoidance and promotion of an ultimate solution to the conflict. There are many avenues through which preventive democracy can be pursued, notably the various conflict resolution forums within the ASEAN. In this undertaking, the aim would be to ensure that a flare-up of the dispute does not occur, thereby creating a conducive environment for an objective assessment of various possible solutions.

            Moreover, the activities of Japanese and Chinese military vessels within various exclusive economic zones have been a major cause of contention among disputants. For purposes of conflict avoidance, proper structures and policies governing the movement of these vessels in disputed territories should be put in place. Again, it would be important for the disputants to draw lessons from the South China Sea dispute, where a framework of military conduct has been entered into among several claimants, including China.

            In all these conflict management strategies, emphasis should be on what is achievable within the prevailing circumstances. This should be the main principle that should guide the activities of government officials, interest groups, think tanks, and non-governmental organizations in their attempts to contribute to the dispute resolution efforts. For example, in situations where the prospects of a long-term solution are slim, it is better for stakeholders to pursue short- and medium-term objectives such as cooperation on areas of scientific research, protection of marine biodiversity, and evaluations of available hydrocarbon resources (Manicom 460). Presently, these objectives are achievable in the short run because they tend to attract less controversy compared to questions about sovereignty. Moreover, they bring into the fray participants who would otherwise have been left on the periphery of conflict avoidance efforts such as scholars, private citizens, eminent persons, and international sponsors. For the best outcomes to be achieved, it would be appropriate for China and Japan to assess the level of success that has been achieved by precedents.

            The main reason for focusing on short- and medium-term objectives over the long-term objective of resolving the sovereignty issue is that there is a need to ensure that the Sino-Japanese relations do not deteriorate. In case they deteriorated, it would become virtually impossible for both short-term and long-term objectives to be pursued. Since all the aforementioned options for a resolution are based on the assumption that relations between the two countries will remain stable, it makes sense for emphasis to be first and foremost on short-term confidence-building efforts. For example, the disputants should steer clear of any remarks that may lead to the withdrawal from the idea of jointly developing resources on the disputed areas by either of the claimants. Such a withdrawal would potentially escalate the dispute into a military conflict.

            For the same reason, positive factors such as the two countries’ ratification of 1982 UNCLOS treaty should be weighed against a number negative factors that may portend to an unfavorable resolution of the dispute. For example, Japan continues to perceive China as a major threat, and this is mainly because China has been venturing too frequently and daringly into Japanese seas in recent times. On the other hand, China has its share of complaints against Japan, the main one being the latter’s decision to partner with the United States in defending Taiwan against meddling by China. Despite these suspicions, the two countries can resolve the territorial dispute over the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands dispute if they succeed in addressing it independently of jurisdictional disputes that have arisen within the wider East China Sea. Indeed, this is the same approach that is being promoted in contemporary legal arguments as well as state practice (Harry 657). This objective can be achieved because the UNCLOS law of 1982 contains provisions for separating issues relating to continental shelf from those of exclusive economic zones and sovereignty claims.


            The most complex element of the territorial dispute Between Japan and China over the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands is sovereignty. Other less complex issues include the joint development of the disputed areas’ resources and address jurisdictional controversies involving the two countries in the wider East China Sea. Thus, there are several possible courses of action that may be taken in the pursuit of a formative agreement that can ultimately pave way for a long-term solution on the issue of sovereignty. One viable course of action would involve reaching an agreement on separating the dispute over the islands and more wide-reaching claims relating to exclusive economic zones and continental shelf. Another viable option involves reaching an agreement on how to forge a common front in addressing aspects of both the continental shelf and the EEZ.

            Such courses of actions may lead to several possible outcomes in the dispute. One of them relates to the joint development zone that under the control of Japan and South Korea, which is currently being claimed by China. Another possible outcome is the setting up a boundary after dividing the disputed area into North Zone and South Zone, with the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands being used as the baseline for the equidistance line defining areas to be earmarked for joint development. Alternatively, both countries may benefit by resolving to create a joint development zone across the region that has been affected by the Diaoyu/Senkaku territorial dispute. The last outcome, whose viability may vary depending on the prevailing circumstances, may involve assessing the viability of using aspects of both joint development and the setting up of a maritime boundary. For this outcome to be achieved, both China and Japan must be willing to make concessions aimed at resolving controversies relating to the continental shelf and the choice between the principles of equidistance and prolongation.

            There are considerable variations in the probability that the claimants may choose to pursue one solution and not the other. In the meantime, it is evident that a swift resolution is highly unlikely. For this reason, Japan and China are better off pursuing short- and medium- term objectives aimed at confidence building as a way of creating the right political environment for the long-term resolution of the sovereignty issue. To achieve these short- and medium-term objectives, the disputants need to promote preventative diplomacy. They also need to appreciate that domestic situations that are not necessarily within the control of the incumbent government tend to have a negative impact on escalation-avoidance efforts by both countries. Lastly, China and Japan must establish a framework for addressing issues of the movement of military vessels within the exclusive economic zones as well as the areas surrounding the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands.


Works Cited

Chao, Chin-Chung and Tian, Dexin. “Disputes over the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands: Communication Tactics and Grand Strategies.” Journal of International Relations and Foreign Policy, 2.2, (2014): 19-47.

Donaldson, John and Williams, Alison. “Understanding Maritime Jurisdictional Disputes: The East China Sea and Beyond.” Journal of International Affairs, 59.1, (2005): 1-17.

Fravel, Taylor. “Explaining Stability in the Senkaku (Diaoyu) Islands Dispute.” In Gerald L. Curtis and Ryosei Kokuburn. Getting the Triangle Straight: Managing China-Japan-U.S. Relations. Pp. 144-164. Tokyo: Japan Center for International Exchange, 2010. Print.

Harry, Jade. “A Solution Acceptable to All – A Legal Analysis of the Senkaku-Diaoyu Island Dispute.” Cornell International Law Journal, 46.11, (2013): 653-671.

He, Yinan. “History, Chinese Nationalism and the Emerging Sino – Japanese Conflict.” Journal of Contemporary China, 16.50, (2007): 1–24.

Liao, Janet. “Sino-Japanese Energy Security and Regional Stability: The Case of the East China Sea Gas Exploration.” East Asia, 25.1, (2008): 57-78.

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