Diaoyu Islands

Timeline: the Diaoyu-Senkaku Islands dispute

PUBLISHED : Monday, 17 September, 2012, 6:42pm
UPDATED : Monday, 07 May, 2018, 11:21am

January 14, 1895:

The Japanese government formally obtains control of the Diaoyu (Senkaku) Islands. Japan asserts the islands were not owned by anyone prior to their occupation while China maintains it has sovereignty over the island chain for centuries. 


September 2, 1945:

Diaoyu (Senkaku) Islands, as part of Ryukyu Islands, come under the US goverment's control after the surrender of Japan at the end of the second world war. 


June 17, 1971:

The Agreement between Japan and the United States of America Concerning the Ryukyu Islands and the Daito Islands is signed between Japan and the US, returning the Senkaku Islands (as part of the Ryukyu Islands) to Japanese administration. This triggers the first anti-Japanese protests, led by Taiwan.


August 12, 1978: 

The Japan-China Peace and Friendship Treaty is signed between China and Japan, in which the dispute over the isles is put aside for future resolution.   


July 14, 1996:

Right-wing Japanese Youth Association members land and build a lighthouse on one of the islets, prompting a series of protests from mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.


September 26, 1996:

Hong Kong activist David Chan drowns after jumping into waters off the Diaoyu Islands during a pro-China protest.


September 29, 1996:

Tens of thousands of people gather for a candlelight vigil in Victoria Park to mourn David Chan’s death and protest against Japan’s claim of the islands.


October 7, 1996:

Three activists from Hong Kong and Taiwan land on the Diaoyu Islands.


March 24, 2004:

Activist Feng Jinhua and six others from China land on the Diaoyu Islands, the first time mainland activists successfully land on the islands.


September 7, 2010:

A Chinese trawler collides with Japanese patrol boats near the disputed islands and results in Japan arresting the Chinese skipper, Zhan Qixiong. The incident prompts a major diplomatic dispute between the two countries.


August 14, 2012:

Hong Kong activists reach the disputed islands by sea for the first time since 1996, with seven activists disembarking onto the island.


August 19, 2012:

Ten Japanese activists swim ashore and raise Japanese flags on the island chain.


September 10, 2012

Japan’s government says it has decided to purchase the disputed islands from a private Japanese owner in an effort, Tokyo claims, aimed at diffusing territorial tensions.


September 14, 2012:

Six Chinese surveillance ships sail into waters around the Diaoyu Islands to assert China’s territorial claims and for “law enforcement”, leaving after seven hours. 


September 15, 2012:

The biggest anti-Japanese protests since China and Japan normalised diplomatic relations in 1972 are held in cities across China. The Japanese embassy in Beijing is besieged by thousands of protesters throwing rocks, eggs and bottles.


September 16, 2012

Anti-Japanese protests break out in dozens of mainland cities for a second day. In some cities peaceful protests turn violent as protesters clash with policemen, attack Japanese made cars and smash up Japanese restaurants.


September 17, 2012

Some major Japanese firms such as Toyota and Honda temporarily shut factories and offices across China.


September 18, 2012

Two Japanese activists land on the Diaoyu Islands while widespread anti-Japanese protests have been held across China at the anniversary of Japan's invasion of Manchuria. 


Sources: SCMP, Aljazeera, Xinhua, Chicago Tribune,