China is alarmed over Japan cutting a deal to allow Taiwanese fishing vessels to operate near a group of uninhabited but disputed islands in the East China Sea.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said, “We are extremely concerned about Japan and Taiwan discussing and signing a fishing agreement.”

Some believe that Japan agreed to the deal in order to prevent China and Taiwan from presenting a unified front on their claims to the region.  It took 17 years for Taipei and Tokyo to click on this.

The islands in dispute are known as The Senkakus in Japan, which has controlled them since at least the 1890s.  The Japanese had a settlement on one of the inhabitable Islets with a fish processing plant.  For Tokyo, it’s a long-settled matter and there is no dispute.

China calls them the Diaoyu Islands, and says they’ve been referenced in Imperial documents as far back as the 1500s.  Taiwan also has a claim on the rocks, calling them the Tiaoyutai Islands.

Why the interest on eight uninhabited rocks and islets?  Oil and natural gas.  In addition to the rich fishing waters, there is believed to be large fossil fuel deposits beneath the sea floor.

For the last few months, Mainland China has been sending fishing boats, warships, and airplanes into the Japanese-controlled region in a series of tests of Tokyo’s resolve.  Neither side is budging.