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Anti-Japan protesters shout slogans while marching towards the Japanese Embassy in Beijing Saturday Aug. 18, 2012. The banner in the back reads "Japan, get out of Diaoyu Island." Japan on Friday expelled several Chinese who were arrested after they landed on disputed islands, but activists vowed to take new trips there that could again inflame territorial tensions in North Asia. (Alexander F. Yuan/AP)
Anti-Japan protesters shout slogans while marching towards the Japanese Embassy in Beijing Saturday Aug. 18, 2012. The banner in the back reads "Japan, get out of Diaoyu Island." Japan on Friday expelled several Chinese who were arrested after they landed on disputed islands, but activists vowed to take new trips there that could again inflame territorial tensions in North Asia. (Alexander F. Yuan/AP)

Timeline: Senkaku/Diaoyu dispute Add to ...

Key dates in the dispute over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands in the East China Sea, controlled by Japan but also claimed by China and Taiwan:

- 15th-16th centuries: Chinese books, published in 1403 and 1534 during the Ming Dynasty, mention Diaoyu in chronicling journeys through the island area.

- 1895: The Japanese government annexes a group of five uninhabited islands and three rocks as part of Okinawa on January 14 on the grounds that they have never been controlled by any other country.

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- 1896: The Japanese government leases the island group to Japanese entrepreneur Tatsushiro Koga. Koga builds plants to process bonito fish and albatross feathers, later employing up to 280 workers.

- 1918: Koga dies and his son Zenji takes over his business.

- 1932: The Japanese government sells four of the islands to Zenji Koga.

- 1940: Koga abandons the business, leaving the islands uninhabited again.

- 1945: Japan surrenders to the U.S.-led allied nations at the end of the Second World War. The islands remain under U.S. occupation as part of Okinawa until 1972.

- 1949: The People’s Republic of China is founded by the Communist Party, with the Nationalists retreating to the island of Taiwan.

- 1969: The UN Economic Commission for Asia and the Pacific reports there may be potential undersea oil reserves in the vicinity of the islands.

- 1971: The governments of China and Taiwan formally declare ownership of the islands.

- 1972: Okinawa is returned to Japanese rule.

- 1972-1985: Koga sells the islands in individual transactions to the Kurihara family, which runs a trading house and owns land throughout Japan.

- 1978: About 100 Chinese fishing boats sail close to the islands. A Japanese nationalist group builds a lighthouse on Uotsuri, one of the islands. (In 2005, the lighthouse is handed over to the Japanese government.)

- 1996: The nationalist group builds another lighthouse on another of the islands. Several activists from Hong Kong dive into waters off the islands on a protest journey. One of them drowns.

- 2002: The Japanese ministry of internal affairs starts renting three of the four Kurihara-owned islands. The other is rented by the defence ministry.

- 2004: A group of Chinese activists lands on one of the disputed islands. The then prime minister Junichiro Koizumi orders their deportation after two days.

- September, 2010: A Chinese fishing boat rams two Japanese coastguard patrol boats off the islands. Its captain is arrested but freed around two weeks later amid a heated diplomatic row that affects trade and political ties.

- April 16, 2012: Tokyo governor Shintaro Ishihara announces he has reached a basic agreement to buy the Kurihara-owned islands.

- July 7, 2012: Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda says his government is considering buying the islands.

- August 15, 2012: Japanese police arrest 14 pro-China activists, five of them on one of the islands.

- August 17, 2012: All 14 are deported.

- August 19, 2012: Japanese nationalists land on the islands without permission.

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