China and Japan base their respective claims on various historical records going back a century or more. (Taiwan, which broke away from mainland China in 1948, has lodged a separate claim of sovereignty.) Japan points to the 1895 treaty that ended the first Sino-Japanese War as the 19th century drew to a close. China, meanwhile, rests its case on a 16th- century Ming Dynasty document that lists the islands among the emperor's most prized possessions. Both sides rely on inconclusive and ambivalent evidence of the kind that should be referred to the International Court of Justice at the Hague for adjudication, not decided by gunboat diplomacy.