The China Quarterly

Research Article

The U.S. Role in the Sino-Japanese Dispute over the Diaoyu (Senkaku) Islands, 1945–1971*

Jean-Marc F. Blanchard

In 1996, the Sino-Japanese conflict over the Diaoyu (Senkaku) Islands intensified to the point where the American mass circulation periodical Time asked: “Will the next Asian war be fought over a few tiny islands?” That such a question could be asked seems incredible given that the Diaoyu Islands, which lie north-east of Taiwan and west of Okinawa, consist of only five small islands and three rocky outcroppings with a total landmass of no more than 7 square kilometres or 3 square miles. Apart from their miniscule size, the islands are uninhabited, are incapable of supporting human habitation for an extended period of time and are unlikely to support any economic life of their own from indigenous resources.


* I would like to thank Steven T. Benfell, Daniel Dzurek, Avery Goldstein, Akira Iriya, Walter A. McDougall, Phillip C. Saunders and Allen S. Whiting for their feedback on various drafts of this paper. I also would like to express my appreciation to the staff at the National Archives-College Park, particularly Greg Gluba, Rebecca L. Collier and Dr Ken Heger for their assistance in gathering materials used in its preparation.