OK so Japan ever strapped for both land and resources is in dispute with 3 or 4 countries over different sets of Island and even rocks. Now to drop the facade that all parties are playing lets just admit right now that it has nothing to do with the Island themselves some of which are only rocks, this is about territorial claims over the waters around them and most of all what is under them and that's natural gas.
The three disputes are as follows
The Senkaku Islands
claimed by China/Taiwan and Japan
The Liancourt rocks
claimed by South Korea and Japan (Dokdo and Takeshima)
The Kuril Islands
claimed by Russia and Japan
I will give you my two cents, without the boring analysis that led to my conclusions: (and even though I happen to live in Japan this is a matter of extreme indifference to me, this is not bias) but first some recent news.
This month both the Senkaku Islands and Liancourt Rocks have been in the news.
During the London Olympics South Korea's mens team defeated Japan's mens team in soccer to get a bronze metal.
The player's name was Park Jong-woo and he got the sign from someone in the crowd. He was then banned from the metal ceremony.
South Korean President Lee Myung-bak who is running for re-election and failing badly and who needs some patriotic seeming issue to champion and run on, decided to add fuel to the fire after the Olympic stunt by paying a visit to the island Aug 10th. Japan's government created a holiday Takeshima Day for Feb 22. South Korea started sending elementary school kids there on field trips. Some extremist South Koreans in turn take pheasant birds and cut off their heads and pour their blood on Japanese flags
. Two Koreans (a mother and her son) even cut off their own fingers and one person set himself on fire to protest the Japanese claims. Dokdo is kind of like Korea's Chick-fil-a. It's a way for over zealous prejudice and bitter Korean nationalist to express their hatred of Japan veiled thinly by a righteous cause. Clearly the islands are disputed with no recognized claims, Japan being a bit more civil about it decided to go through international courts, but South Korea just decided to go Israeli squatter style and build a lighthouse there and place two people there so that they could claim it as theirs. They didn't get excited about it, suddenly wanting to place two people on it and build a lighthouse on it until after
it was discovered what might be was under it. Japan offered to take the case to international court but South Korea has refused. As for who is closer to the Island its virtually a tie. Japan is like 4km closer than mainland Korea. I think the rocks are 211km and 215km way from Japan and South Korea.
South Korea's Holocaust card when they have any dispute with Japan no matter how unrelated it is, is to yell "Comfort women" it would be like in the middle of negotiations with America about whatever for Japan to yell Hiroshima. Japan did not take the rocks from Korea in the 1905 war, rather they officially registered the rocks in 1895 while they were empty ten years before the war with Russia that took place Korea.
So as all of this is going on some Chinese activist decided it would be a great time to try to visit the Senkaku Islands and claim it as Chinese. The Japanese coast guard arrested
all 14 of them and deported them. Now Japan controls these Islands but that doesn't stop others from claiming them, however it would be hypocritical of Japan to site their undisputed control of the Islands as reason to call the other parties ludicrous because that is exactly Japan's own position in the dispute with Russia over different islands.
The Kuril Islands are part of Russia, they have Russian speakers and year round inhabitants who a re Russian, but not all of them. Now clearly they used to be Japanese, they were inhabited by Ainu people (natives to Japan's Hokkaido) and discovered by Japan for over 370 years. However during WWII the Russians physically took the Islands and currently thousands of Russians live on them. But that's war, Japan lost thus this is now part of Russia. What is really under dispute however are the 4 southern most Islands. Putin offered to return 2 of them to Japan (the two smallest which account for just 6% of the land mass) in return for Japan giving up their claims on the other two. Japan should have taken his offer. Because Russia is never going to give up the other two, it is not probably possible nor worth it if it were for Japan to take them back, so they should have taken their 6% and called it a day. I know Russia has plenty of land and gas, but such is the nature of war.
Here is my two cents
Senkaku is Japanese they should do joint drilling there with Taiwan.
Kuril is Russian Japan should take the offered two islands and be happy anything was returned.
Liancourt belongs to no one despite Korea's PETA like actions, and should be settled by the international court of justice. I think the most fair thing there is again to divide the gas fields between Korea and Japan.