18 most contested islands
The islands, or rather the resources in and around them, are the center of intense geopolitical relations between different countries around the world.
Island of Hans. Canada and Denmark are divided.
Canada and Denmark are currently arguing over who owns a small island in the Kennedy Straits that separates the Canadian island of Ellesmere from Greenland.
The dispute began in the 1980s, when Canadians and Danes fought Bottle War, during which Canadian and Danish navy visited the island and left bottles of Canadian whiskey and Scandinavian liqueur to “mark” the territory, so to speak.
The situation worsened in the early 2000s, when the Danish fleet landed on the island and set a flag on the island, which infuriated Canadians. In July 2005, Canadians responded by setting a 3.5 meter flag.
Soon after, tensions developed, and the two states issued a joint statement saying that “any contact of one of the parties with the island of Hans will be done in a restrained way.”
Denmark and Canada are still trying to reach a mutual agreement on the island of Hans.
Senkaku Islands (Japan) / Diaoyu (China). Japan, China and Taiwan are divided.
The Japanese government ruled Senkaku since it formally seized the islands in 1895, with the exception of 1945-1972, when they were under the control of the American occupation authorities, but China has been demanding control of the islands since the 14th century.
The islands are uninhabited (they are used by American forces for training), but are surrounded by rich fishing grounds.
In 2010, a Chinese fishing boat and a Japanese coast guard vessel collided near the islands, creating a serious diplomatic situation in which Beijing temporarily froze trade and ministerial negotiations.
Since then, the island has been at the center of growing tensions between the two Asian superpowers, each of which released official documents that justified their demands last November.
Earlier in the month, the New York Times reported that Japan sent there its planes 943 times over the 12-month period between March 2014 and March 2015, which is even more common than during the Cold War.Most of those flights were explained by the observation of Chinese aircraft near the contested islands.
On April 22nd, the New York Times reported that Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met in Indonesia during a meeting of Asian and African leaders. The meeting lasted about 30 minutes and while the issue of the islands probably did not arise, the meeting could help open the dialogue for the future.
Paracel Islands. They divide China, Taiwan and Vietnam.
The Paracel Islands are a group of more than 30 islands, sandbanks and reefs that are equidistant from China and Vietnam. They are inhabited by turtles, as well as a small number of Chinese military.
This is just one of several disputes in the South China Sea. Parts of the Paracel Islands were ruled by China and South Vietnam, before and so the tensions got out of control in 1974, and the conflict led to the death of 71 soldiers.
China has ruled all the islands since then, but Vietnam disputes the rights.
On April 16, evidence was published that China is building a military airstrip on the Paracel Islands, as was done south on the Spartly Islands. These events angered the United States and alarmed the neighbors of China.
Shoal Scarborough.Share China, Taiwan and the Philippines.
Shallow water is a chain of reefs in the shape of triangles, which are located approximately 100 kilometers east of the Philippines (and 250 south-west of China) in a fish-rich area. China and Taiwan claim that the Chinese discovered shallow water several centuries ago and that there is a long history of Chinese fishing activity in this area. The Philippines claims to have occupied the island since independence in 1898, and therefore has legal rights to shallow water, based on legal methods of acquiring sovereignty.
Tensions broke out of control in April 2012, when a Philippine observation plane found eight Chinese fishing vessels docked off the shoal with illegally collected corals, giant clams and live sharks on board. When the ships of the Philippine Navy attempted to arrest the fishermen, they were blocked by the Chinese Maritime Surveillance Service.
The confrontation lasted until the United States intervened to remove the military from the island until an agreement on its ownership was reached.The Philippines honored the treaty, and China left the military in shallow water and effectively militarized it.
Since then, the Chinese Coast Guard and Maritime Surveillance Service have patrolled the waters around the shoal and have deployed Philippine vessels entering the area. Also recently there were reports of Chinese ships robbing Filipino fishermen at gunpoint and shooting at them from water cannons.
According to the Daily Mail this month, about 12,000 Filipino and American soldiers began military training, which includes amphibious attacks in the marine space in front of the shoal of Scarborough.
The doctrine modeled the capture of a Philippine island occupied by invaders.
Spartly Islands. Vietnam, China, Taiwan, Malaysia and the Philippines are divided.
For the first time, the islands of Spartley were discovered as early as 600, when people migrated through the South China Sea.
Around the 17th century, both China and Vietnam were mapped and claimed the rights to the islands, not knowing that others had done the same.
The island of Itu Aba - the only habitable island and the only one with fresh water - was positioned as part of French Indochina in 1887, was turned into a base for submarines by the Japanese during World War II and came under the administration of Taiwan in 1946.
There are no permanent residents on Itu Aba, but China, the Philippines and Vietnam are challenging the rights to it, all because of its rich fishing grounds and potential reserves of oil and natural gas.
Recent reports indicate that China has seriously increased its efforts to create a military base on the contested islands. Based on satellite imagery, the Chinese poured three new islands on which the runway is being built.
The end of the construction of the runway is likely to be regarded as opposition to the Philippines, since the reef is only 25 kilometers from Pagasa Island, which is occupied by the Philippines and has a civilian population.
In February 2015, Beijing completed construction on six different island reefs and began construction in the seventh.
The islands will serve as the advanced operational base for the Chinese armed forces. When construction is completed, Beijing will be able to use the base to form troops in the South China Sea.
The expansion of Chinese construction in the South China Sea is starting a series of territorial disputes with its neighbors, many of which also have disputes over reefs and islands.
Chagos Islands.Share the United Kingdom and Mauritius.
The Chagos Islands are a distant group of seven atolls comprising more than 60 separate tropical islands in the Indian Ocean. The closest clusters of land are the Maldives in the north.
The islands were part of the African island state of Mauritius until the 18th century, when French settlers began to arrive. In 1810, the French ceded the island to Great Britain, and in 1965 Great Britain broke away the Chagos Archipelago from Mauritius to form British Indian Ocean Territory.
In 1971, Great Britain leased the atoll of Diego Garcia to the United States to build a military base and drive out the locals of Chagos who lived on the island. Today, the atoll of Diego Garcia is the only inhabited part of the Chagos Islands, while it is inhabited only by the military and civilian personnel working on them.
In April 2010, the British government declared the Chagos Archipelago to be the largest marine reserve in the world in an obvious attempt to prevent any relocation of local people. In December 2010, Mauritius filed charges against the United Kingdom in accordance with the UN Convention to challenge the legality of the marine reserve.
Five years later, it came to an international arbitration court, where representatives of Mauritius and the United Kingdom are currently responsible to the UN Tribunal for secret hearings on the legality of the marine reserve.
Mauritius believes that a decision in their favor could lead to the withdrawal of UK rights to the islands, which will allow them to return under the sovereignty of Mauritius.
Calero Island. Divide Nicaragua and Costa Rica.
Nicaragua and Costa Rica disputed the ownership of Calero Island for two centuries, but it is believed by many to be part of Costa Rica.
In November 2010, Nicaragua reiterated its rights to Calero based on Google maps, which mistakenly labeled Calero Island as part of Nicaragua.
Nicaragua refused to withdraw troops from the disputed territory despite the fact that they occupied the region only because of an error on Google maps.
In March 2011, the UN International Court of Justice temporarily ruled that both countries should refrain from locating civilians, security forces or police on the island, but that Costa Rica can send civilian teams that deal only with environmental issues.
Since then, the island has continued to be at the center of increasing tensions between the two Central American countries, supported by incursions from both sides.
Now Nicaragua and Costa Rica met again at the UN International Court of Justice after Costa Rica accused Nicaragua of exerting a “gigantic environmental impact” on the San Juan River, which flows along the north side of the island, referring to excavation in 2010.
Nicaragua denies the charges and says that excavation is necessary to make San Juan navigable.
Rocks Liancourt. Divide Japan and South Korea.
The Liancourt rocks, known as the Dokdo (“secluded island”) in Korean and Takeshima (“bamboo island”) in Japanese, consist of two main islands and 35 small rocks in the Sea of Japan.
Korean octopus catcher and his wife are permanent residents of the islands. The small Korean police station, administrative staff, the state of the lighthouse and the South Korean coast guard are located in a precarious situation.
On April 14, 2015, two chapters and security officers from South Korea and Japan met for the first time in more than five years for security talks in the "two plus two" format.The meeting was supposed to announce a reduction in tension in relations between the countries, but the negotiations broke down when Japan reaffirmed its demand for ownership of the Liancourt rocks.
Both countries began to argue about the islands a few hundred years ago. Interestingly, North Korea supports the demands of South Korea, despite the fact that it is still technically at war with them.
Big and Small Tomb and Abu Musa. Divide Iran and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
The Big and Small Tomb are two small islands in the Strait of Hormuz and have been disputed by the Persians and Arabs for many centuries.
Currently, the islands are inhabited mainly by Iranian armed forces.
In April 2012, then Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited the island of Abu Musa, becoming the first Iranian head of state to do so after Tehran accepted the island 41 years ago.
The UAE then recalled its ambassador from Tehran for consultation and canceled a friendly football match with Iran.
At the Arab League Summit in March 2015, the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Marzih Afham reaffirmed Iran’s sovereignty over the islands, saying that "these islands are an inseparable part of Iranian territory."
She added that "the repeated demands on Iran’s sovereignty over these three islands will never have an impact on existing legal and historical facts."
Kurile Islands. Divide Japan and Russia.
In the first officially established relations, Russia and Japan in 1855 agreed that Japan owned the islands of Etorofu and Kunashir. But at the end of the Second World War, the USSR expelled all Japanese inhabitants from the islands.
The Russian military has ruled the islands ever since, despite the demands of sovereignty Japan, which calls them the "Northern Territory".
In 1951, the San Francisco Peace Treaty stipulated that Japan should have abandoned all demands on the islands, but it clearly did not recognize the demands of the Soviet Union. Japan claims that some islands are not part of the Kuril, so they are not covered by the agreement.
In 2006, a Russian patrol vessel opened fire on a Japanese fishing boat, illegally stationed near the shores of the disputed islands after the ship ignored several orders to surrender. A Japanese fisherman was killed.
In February 2015, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe vowed to rid the islands of Russian control during a holiday dedicated to the northern territories of Japan. Russia currently uses the islands to conduct military exercises.
Falkland Islands. Share the United Kingdom and Argentina.
The Falkland Islands include the Eastern Falklands, the Western Falklands and 776 smaller islands.
The capital and only city is Stanley (population of 2115 people) in the Eastern Falklands. The islands are self-governing, but the archipelago is the territory of Great Britain, which is responsible for their protection and international relations.
Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom claimed to have discovered the islands in the 16th century; they were repeatedly French, British, Spanish and Argentine settlements.
Britain established its control in 1833, and Argentina disputed the claim since then, unsuccessfully invading the islands for two months in 1982, known as the Falklands War.
Last month, British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon said that England plans to “strengthen” its defense of the islands.Argentina also stepped up its campaign to get back what it calls the “Malvinas Islands”.
There are reports that Russia was working on an agreement on leasing long-range bombers to Argentina for a possible attempt to launch an offensive to recapture the islands.
There are approximately 3,000 Falklanders living on the islands, legally British nationals, but at heart they are from Argentina.
Imia Island (Greece) / Cardak (Turkey). Divide Greece and Turkey.
Imia / Kardak is a pair of small uninhabited islets in the Aegean Sea, which are located between the chain of Greek islands and the western coast of Turkey.
On December 27, 1995, the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs officially declared the territory of the Turkish islets. The following month, warships from Turkey and Greece sailed to the islets, then special forces from Greece landed on the eastern island, and special forces from Turkey - on the western; both those and others did it with the goal of raising their flags.
Since then, territorial disputes over the islands in the Aegean Sea have been rather calm. Turkey claims rights to a large number of other islets in the Aegean Sea, which, as Turkey believes, have "indefinite sovereignty", but are regarded as unquestionably Greek by Greece.
Earlier this month, Turkey turned to Greece with a request to avoid unilateral actions in the Aegean Sea, if Athens does not want to harm the "positive atmosphere" between the two countries.
The Aegean region witnessed increasing tensions between Turkey and Greece, which increased after the election of a new government from a coalition of cardinal leftists in Greece in January.
Turkey’s comments came after Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos visited Imia Island / Cardak on 30 January.
Island Navassa. Divide the United States and Haiti.
Navassa Island has an area of approximately 5 square kilometers and is located 60 kilometers south of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The rights of the United States to him were claimed on September 19, 1857 by sea captain Peter Duncan, even though Haiti had already done so.
The island was rich in guano, so around 1865 the United States built mining facilities with housing for 140 contract workers, buildings for observers, food stores, warehouses, and a church.
The island was uninhabited since the end of World War II and was under the administrative responsibility of several US agencies,including the Coast Guard, the Ministry of the Interior, and the Fish and Wildlife Service, which made Navassa Island a National Preserve.
In 1998, the scientific expedition described Navassa as "a unique Caribbean biodiversity reserve". Land islands and marine ecosystems experienced the 20th century virtually intact.
The operator group was given rare access to the island for two weeks in February 2015.
Island Peredzhil. Divide Spain and Morocco.
Peredzhil Island is located in Moroccan territorial waters, just 200 meters from the Moroccan coast in the Strait of Gibraltar, but it has been a Spanish territory since 1668.
A small rocky island is sometimes used by local Moroccans as pasture for goats.
In 2002, Morocco sent a dozen soldiers to occupy a desert island. The Spanish soldiers subsequently evicted them and easily installed the Spanish flag. The island is now left, but is being checked by both countries.
Machias-Sil and North Rock Islands. Divide the United States and Canada.
Machias-Sil Island is located in the Gulf of Maine, approximately 16 kilometers south-east of Maine and 20 south-west of New Brunswick.The United States and Canada are claiming ownership of it, as well as neighboring North Rock.
The island is currently a bird migration reserve and is operated by the Canadian Wildlife Service.
The Canadian Coast Guard flew the lighthouse on the island while the lighthouse keepers in the 1980s lived on the island with their families and received food by sea.
The American demand is not as strong as before, when in 1918 they placed the Marines there (with the consent of Canada) for several months in order to protect the Bay of Fundy from attacks by German submarines.
Islands Vukovar and Sharengrad. Divide Croatia and Serbia.
The island of Scharengrad and Vukovar are located on the Danube River on the border of Croatia and Serbia.
When Yugoslavia existed, both islands were part of Croatia. But during the Croatian War of Independence (1991-1995), the Serbian militia occupied the islands.
In 2004, Serbia withdrew its troops from the islands, but replaced them with police. Croats may come to the islands, but their ownership of land is not recognized by Serbia.
The islands were open for recreational purposes in 2009, but Serbia still claims rights to the islands, because they are closer to the Serbian coast.
In a statement to the daily newspaper in February 2012, Croatian President Ivo Josipovic said that the two countries need a flexible solution to border disputes on the Danube River and encouraged both sides to make proposals.
According to the internationally recognized border of the island are part of Croatia.
Islands Glorioso, Bassas da India and Juan de Nova. France and Madagascar are divided.
The island of Glorioso became French in 1892, but was first named in 1880 by Frenchman Ippolit Calto (who developed a coconut plantation there). Today, the archipelago is a nature reserve with a meteorological station, which housed the troops of the French Legion.
In 1897, France took control of Bassas da India, an uninhabited atoll known for the danger of shipwrecks. In 1968, France placed him under the administration of a commissioner living on the island of Reunion, which is the furthest region of the European Union and serves as the French representative office abroad.
The island of Juan de Nova came under French control in 1897 and was exploited for the extraction of guano in the 20th century, before being abandoned during World War II.It is considered an important area for many birds, because about 100,000 pairs of terns live there.
Madagascar demands sovereignty over these territories.
Swains Island. Divide the United States and New Zealand.
Swains Island is an atoll that is located north of Samoa in the Pacific Ocean and is considered to be unorganized by the United States under American Samoa. It is part of the Tokelau chain, which is the territory of New Zealand.
On the island of Swains live 37 Tokelaunts who collect coconuts.
In 1856, one American claimed to have acquired the right to an atoll from Captain Turnbull of Great Britain. He developed a coconut plantation, and his family ruled the island, virtually independently of any external authority from 1856 to 1925, when the island fell under the jurisdiction of American Samoa.
On March 25, 1981, New Zealand confirmed American sovereignty over Swains Island, but the 2006 referendum called it a part of Tokelau (ie, New Zealand).