The Senkaku Islands (尖閣諸島, Senkaku-shotō, variants: 尖閣群島 Senkaku-guntō and 尖閣列島 Senkaku-rettō) are a group of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea. They are located northeast of Taiwan, east of China, west of Okinawa Island, and north of the southwestern end of the Ryukyu Islands. They are known in mainland China as the Diaoyu Islands or Diaoyu Dao and its affiliated islands (Chinese: 钓鱼岛及其附属岛屿; pinyin: Diàoyúdǎo jí qí fùshǔ dǎoyǔ; also simply 钓鱼岛), in Taiwan as the Tiaoyutai Islands / Diaoyutai Islands (Chinese: 釣魚臺列嶼; pinyin: Diàoyútái liè yǔ), and in the Western world are sometimes referred to by the historical name Pinnacle Islands. In Okinawan they are called ʔiyukubajima (魚蒲葵島). In Yaeyama dialect, they are called iigunkubajima.
The islands are the focus of a territorial dispute between Japan and China and between Japan and Taiwan. China claims the discovery and ownership of the islands from the 14th century, while Japan maintained ownership of the islands from 1895 until its surrender at the end of World War II. The United States administered the islands as part of the United States Civil Administration of the Ryukyu Islands from 1945 until 1972, when the islands returned to Japanese control under the Okinawa Reversion Agreement between the United States and Japan. The discovery of potential undersea oil reserves in 1968 in the area was a catalyst for further interest in the disputed islands. Despite the diplomatic stalemate between China and Taiwan, both governments agree that the islands are part of Taiwan as part of Toucheng Township in Yilan County. Japan administers and controls the Senkaku islands as part of the city of Ishigaki in Okinawa Prefecture. It does not acknowledge the claims of China nor Taiwan, but it has not allowed the Ishigaki administration to develop the islands.
As a result of the dispute, the public is largely barred from approaching the uninhabited islands, which are about a seven-hour boat ride from Ishigaki. Vessels from the Japan Coast Guard pursue Chinese ships crossing the maritime boundary in what one visiting journalist described in 2012 as “an almost cold war-style game of cat-and-mouse”, and fishing and other civilian boats are prevented from getting too close to avoid a provocative incident.
The Senkaku Islands are one of two remaining nesting sites in the world for the short-tailed albatross, alongside Tori-shima, Izu Islands.