Currently, the islands are under Japan’s administrative control. Through the 1971 Okinawa Reversion Treaty, the US returned the Ryukyu Islands—which included the disputed islands—to Japan. However, the US made it clear that the transfer of the right of administration does not equate to the transfer of sovereignty. Hence, the sovereignty of the islands continues to be contested.
With less than seven square kilometres in total land mass, the islands have little value. Where the islands are valuable, is that the victorious claimant could, under international law, gain exclusive economic rights to nearly 20,000 square nautical miles to the surrounding seas and seabed.
Beneath the waters lie a potential treasure trove of natural gas, oil, and fishes. In fact, Japan accused China of only caring about the islands after an academic survey of the East China Sea done in 1968 found the presence of oil and gas reserves near the islands.