Sometimes an uninhabited island chain is just an uninhabited island chain. But that’s never the case in East Asia, where territorial disputes often involve fishing rights, energy supplies, and, perhaps most importantly, the re-litigation of historical grievances.
Japan and China are currently involved in an imbroglio over the East China Sea's Senkaku islands (known as the Diao Yu in China), which both countries claim. Japanese prime minister Yoshihiko Noda is expected to address the issue at the U.N. General Assembly in New York this week. He'll likely face a hostile reaction from the Chinese delegation—tens of thousands of Chinese (with the tacit approval of their government) have embarked on anti-Japanese riots in the past few weeks, torching Japanese businesses and cars, and carrying signs calling for war and even anti-Japanese genocide.