In ancient Greek mythology, Zeus, the king of the gods, was born on an island called Crete in the Mediterranean Sea. Crete, located in the center of the eastern Mediterranean, gave birth to the earliest civilization of ancient Greece and is recognized as one of the birthplaces of Western civilization. The important geographical location and abundant products attracted the arrival of many conquerors. Numerous wars were fought here. The Roman Empire, Arabs, Byzantine Empire, Venetians, and Turks successively occupied this place.
However, no conqueror can tame the Cretans. Turkey even sold the island to Egypt because the garrison was too worn out, and the Egyptians did not dare to garrison at all. In 1898, the four powers of Britain, France, Russia, and Italy reached an agreement requiring Crete to establish an independent state. However, the Cretans who have been separated for more than two thousand years are still attached to the cultural ties with Greece and joined Greece through a referendum with 98% of the votes. During World War II, Germany, which fancyed its strategic position here, paid an extremely heavy price here, and Crete was also dubbed the prestige of “influencing the overall situation of World War II.”
/ What a small island in the ocean can bring is often a blue land with great value and boundless potential. /
Today, Crete, which has long since ended the war, stands quietly in the middle of the Mediterranean. The island has beautiful scenery and pleasant climate. It produces one of the world’s top olive oils. It is also a world-famous hometown of longevity.
The historical disputes of Crete are the epitome of the situation of many islands in the world. To this day, many islands are still writing unfinished chapters of disputes in their own years.
An island, a land area surrounded by water and above the water at high tide. Today, the total number of islands in the world is more than 50,000. Some of these islands have formed island countries, such as the United Kingdom and Iceland; some are subordinate to countries on the mainland, such as Tasmania in Australia and the Hawaiian Islands in the United States.
Since modern times, the historical changes in the ownership of islands in the world are related to the Western countries that have successively embarked on the path of colonial expansion after the opening of new shipping routes. From the 18th to the 19th century, the control of most islands in the world was in the hands of Britain, France, Germany, the United States, Japan, and Spain. After the Second World War, the ownership of some islands changed. For example, Midway Island, Guam, etc. originally occupied by Japan were taken over by the United States, while overseas islands originally belonging to Germany were occupied by British, French, and US cents.
The island of Crete taken by the International Space Station in July 2011
So far, the ownership of most islands in the world has been determined. There are 10 countries including Britain, France, the United States, Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, Australia, Spain, Portugal and New Zealand that still own overseas island territories. Among them, France and the United Kingdom have the largest and most widely distributed overseas islands.
The important value of an island lies not only in its small size, but also in its legal basis for delimiting territorial waters and exclusive economic zones. What a small island in the ocean can bring is often a blue land with great value and boundless potential.
According to Article 121 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, islands can have their own territorial sea, contiguous zone, exclusive economic zone and continental shelf just like land territories. In other words, as long as you have an island, you have the sea area around it, as well as the mineral and fishery resources in the nearby ocean. According to specific regulations, an island can have an exclusive economic zone of up to 430,000 square kilometers.
Therefore, in today’s world, with the exception of Antarctica, which is “jointly developed without declaring sovereignty”, there is no truly unowned island, and even a single reef may become a “ground for warriors.”
Today, when we set our sights on the “enclave” disputes far away from the vassal state, we should not forget that these islands are geographically separated from the mainland and should be regarded as part of the broad “enclave”. The same characteristics as land enclaves, without losing the interests of narrow enclaves, make island disputes and independence issues particularly worthy of attention.
Internationally, the principle of ownership of newly discovered islands is “the earliest discovery, the earliest management, and the earliest jurisdiction.” However, the actual situation is often complicated and difficult to define, and island disputes occur from time to time. In the history of those islands whose affiliation is unknown, “big powers” often play an important role.
In the southwestern part of the Atlantic Ocean, only 500 kilometers away from the mainland of Argentina, lies the Malvinas Islands, which the British call the Falkland Islands. For two centuries, both Argentina and the United Kingdom claimed to be the first to discover the archipelago, and both declared sovereignty over it.
In 1982, Argentina sent troops to regain the Falklands, and the Falklands War broke out.
The closest thing to the facts is that the British did not pay attention to the islands after they discovered it. In 1764, the French occupied the Falklands and established a settlement, and later sold it to Spain. In 1820, Argentina, after expelling the Spanish army for independence, announced its takeover of sovereignty over the island. In 1831, Argentina detained American ships in the waters, and angry Americans sent troops to destroy Argentine settlements on the island. Since then, the British fact controls the island.
After World War II, Argentina, which has developed into the No. 1 power in South America, has gradually gained confidence and is gearing up to this “home” island. First of all, Argentina referred the Falklands issue to the United Nations. The United Nations General Assembly made a resolution recognizing the dispute over the sovereignty of the islands and requiring the two countries to resolve it through negotiations, but the negotiations never came to fruition.
In 1982, the Argentine government decided to give it a go and send troops to recover. The Falklands War broke out. In the end, the war ended with the defeat of Argentina, and the issue of the ownership of the Malvinas Islands remains unresolved.
In West Asia, the Strait of Hormuz is the only waterway for oil carriers to enter and exit the Persian Gulf, and is known as the “World Oil Valve”. The three islands in the Gulf (Abu Musa, Grand Tunbu and Little Tunbu) are located in the center of the channel leading to the Strait of Hormuz in the southeast of the Persian Gulf. It can be said that whoever controls them controls the transportation “valves” of the entire Persian Gulf.
Throughout history, the Persian Empire, the Arab Empire, the Ottoman Empire and Portugal have successively ruled the three islands in the Gulf. In the 17th century, Persia (later called “Iran”) drove out the Portuguese and occupied the three islands. At the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century, the three islands were under the jurisdiction of the two emirates of Sharjah and Ras Al Khaimah (later joined the “United Arab Emirates”).
In the early 20th century, in order to strengthen control of the Persian Gulf, Britain began to assist the two emirates in establishing sovereignty over the three islands. After the end of World War II, affected by the decline of its own strength and the international situation, Britain decided to withdraw from the Persian Gulf.
Faced with Iran’s demands on the three islands in the Gulf, the British team confirmed the jurisdiction of the two parties, but did not clarify the ownership of the sovereignty, which paved the way for the future island dispute between Iran and the UAE.
Currently, the three islands in the Gulf are actually controlled by Iran. The UAE has continuously declared its sovereignty through various means, sought international support, and strived to “recover its own territory.”
The most confusing island dispute is the Hanish Islands dispute on the Red Sea. The Hanish Islands are located in the southern part of the Red Sea, with rich fishing grounds nearby, and close to the Mande Strait, an important international waterway. Eritrea, an African country and an Asian country, Yemen, both of which are located on both sides of the Red Sea and are both “least developed countries,” both claim sovereignty over it.
The strange thing is that Eritrea and Yemen have always had different opinions on how many islands have territorial disputes. In 1994, a war broke out between the two sides, but they unanimously blocked the news from the outside world. The news was not officially released until Yemen lost in the war.
Perhaps after the conflict, both countries think that this is not the way to go, and finally agree to a ruling by the International Court of Justice. In 1998, the international arbitration institution headquartered in London, England made a ruling that the main islands in the archipelago belonged to Yemen, and a small part of the islands belonged to Eritrea. Both parties agreed.
However, after 2001, the two countries began to dispute the content of the international ruling. So far, there are still conflicts between the two sides on issues such as fishing areas in the waters.
The island is surrounded by sea on all sides, and there is a natural geographical barrier between it and the main body of the land. Coupled with the influence of factors such as ethnicity and religion, “independent thinking” in island culture is very common.
On February 7, 2018, during the French President’s visit to Corsica, people on the island hoisted the flag of Corsica to promote separatism
Generally speaking, independent island countries with large areas and rich freshwater resources have significant advantages in historical development. On the one hand, having a marine barrier is not easy to be affected by continental wars; on the other hand, it can develop into a regional transportation and commercial center by using maritime advantages, such as the two powers of the world, Britain and Japan.
In some countries, the islands with the above characteristics are constantly emerging with independence movements. The most typical example is Corsica, the largest island in France.
The inhabitants of Corsica have a different language and culture from that of France. Since the island was incorporated into France in 1769, separatist activities on the island have never stopped. Corsica has therefore become a “problem island” that has caused headaches for successive French governments.
Corsica is the hometown of Napoleon. According to legend, the 16-year-old Napoleon made up his mind that one day he must drive out the French and liberate Corsica. However, now and then, Napoleon, who will be the Emperor of France in the future, of course can no longer be obsessed with the trivial matter of Corsica’s independence. On the contrary, he hopes that Corsica will be obedient.
Tokelau is composed of three atolls, Atafu Atoll is one of them
In addition, some small independent island countries are very small, lack fresh water resources and arable land, and their development is greatly restricted. For example, after its independence, Nauru, a Pacific island nation with a land area of only 21.1 square kilometers, quickly exhausted its only phosphate rock resources without planning, putting the entire country into a survival dilemma. Although Singapore, which was forced to establish an independent state, rose rapidly with the help of the transportation status of the Strait of Malacca, the shortage of fresh water and arable land resources has always been the weak underbelly of its development.
Therefore, most of the islands subject to natural conditions are not willing to become independent, as is the case with the New Zealand Territory Tokelau. The Tokelau Islands are small in size and insufficient in resources, but agriculture and fisheries are sufficiently self-sufficient. For decades, New Zealand has taken great care of this place, not only has a large amount of support for infrastructure construction, but also has provided aid every year in accordance with the expenditure of the residents on the island. A small island with a total of just over 1,000 inhabitants can receive more than US$4 million in aid each year, sometimes even more than US$9 million.
Finally, overwhelmed New Zealand expressed its stance, suggesting Tokelau’s independence. However, the two independence referendums all ended in failure, and even for the first time in the world, a certain place voted 100% to reject independence. Reluctantly, New Zealand expressed its understanding of the results of the referendum and promised to continue to support Tokelau.
Residents of Tokelau
Those islands that pursue independence and those that do not want to be independent have jointly revealed the “independence dilemma” of today’s islands in the world. The independent imagination of the island itself, as a special form of island disputes, shows the cultural tendency of separation and integration.
/ For the first time in the world, a certain place has voted 100% to reject independence. /
Unfolding the history scroll, the change of the island’s ownership reproduces the war and peace of the entire world in modern and contemporary history. Above the magnificent endless ocean, the tiny islands are as bright as stars, but they are tiny but contain endless power. They are the battlefield of great powers, and they are also synonymous with fragility and pride.
Today, as the cornerstone of the continental power’s march into the ocean, the story of the island is not over yet. But all this is not only related to the great cause of a great country and the grand ambition of returning to the world, but also to the homeland on which every inhabitant and every coral depends on that square inch of land.