East Asia's top 5 island disputes

Many of the island territories are small, isolated from the countries’ mainlands, and sparsely populated. But strategic interests and abundant natural resources make them valuable.

Diaoyu/Senkaku islands – claimed by China and Japan

The eight Daioyu/Senkaku islands are barren islands northeast of Taiwan. The largest is two miles long and less than one mile wide. The territory is important because the surrounding waters contain oil and natural gas and also serve as fishing grounds.

The islands were previously controlled by Taiwan as part of China, but Japan took over following the Sino-Japanese War. Although Taiwan was handed back to China after World War II, no status was defined for the islands. Interest in the islands was renewed by a UN report in 1969 that said the islands and surrounding waters may contain sizable petroleum reserves.

The US and Japan signed a treaty returning Okinawa and the islands to Japanese control in 1971, although China challenged the agreement.

Sources: Congressional Research Service, US Department of Energy, news and wire services

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