The discussion regarding ownership of and fishing rights in the East China Sea is up again, as Japan plans to solidify its claim to ownership of an island group known as the Senkaku Islands in Japan, and Diaoyu Islands in China. The uninhabited island group was a part of China as of the 14th Century, but control over them was taken by Japan in 1895. They maintained it until the end of World War II, when the United States claimed it for administration. It was officially handed over to Japan again in 1971, but this was strongly contested by China. Part of the islands were under private ownership, which were just sold to China, prompting protests and rioting within mainland China. The People's Republic of China claims it is part of Taiwan, which is a rare agreement between the two territories. What further makes the case difficult is that the islands are part of the U.S. Japan Security Treaty, which implies that if Japan were to take military action, it could compel military assistance from the United States. While it is unlikely that the dispute over the islands would cause a massive military effort, it is testing the might of the Pacific powerhouse countries, who both have a vested interest in the island dispute.
The islands serve primarily as a fishing ground at the moment, but oil was discovered under the surface, which, among dwindling global supplies, is an extremely valuable resource for both nations. At the moment there are no officially published plans to tap the oil supply, as fishing rights remain the largest issue. Furthermore, the Chinese masses were angered by the historical significance of asserting power on the same day as the anniversary of the Manchurian Incident, which was an event staged by the Japanese government on the 18th of September, 1931 in order to invade northern China.
In response to the purchase of the islands by Japan, around 1,000 Chinese fishing vessels set sail for the area as well as several military ships, potentially escalating the situation. The United States is attempting to defuse the situation, and there have been no major developments since the streets of major Chinese cities erupted into widespread protest, signaling an unwillingness by the parties involved to escalate to military action.