Territorial disputes -Sea - Senkaku

Territorial disputes (2)
This class
• Maritime Territorial Disputes
• Basics on the ‘Law of the Sea’ (1982)
• Case study: Senkaku/Diaoyu/Diaoyutai islands
• ‘Freedom of-the-seas’ doctrine: sea “free to
all and belonging to none”, except for narrow
ribbon along the coast (generally 3 miles).
• Competition over fishing, pollution, tensions
of resource rights, provocative foreign navy
Challenges to the ‘freedom of the seas”
• In 1945, President Harry S Truman, responding in
part to pressure from domestic oil interests,
unilaterally extended United States jurisdiction over
all natural resources on that nation's continental
shelf - oil, gas, minerals, etc… Other nations soon
followed suit.
Challenges to the ‘freedom of the seas”
• 1946, Argentina claimed its
shelf and the epicontinental
sea above it.
• Chile and Peru in 1947, and
Ecuador in 1950, asserted
sovereign rights over a 200mile zone, hoping thereby to
limit the access of distantwater fishing fleets and to
control the depletion of fish
stocks in their adjacent seas.
• Indonesia and then the Philippines assert
dominion over seas between islands of their
Maritime territorial disputes
Maritime disputes can be based on several dimensions:
• Land (esp. islands)
• Border
• Extent (3 miles, 12 miles, 200 miles, continental shelf)
• Sea versus Seabed
• Use (fishing, minerals, …)
Point Roberts
United Nations Convention on the Law
of the Sea (UNCLOS)
• Pre-dated by a series of conventions (‘Geneva
conventions of the Sea, 1958)
• Negotiated 1973-1982, in force since 1994
EEZ (grey), High Seas (blue)
The Canadian Coast Guard vessel Louis S.
St-Laurent (front) and the US Coast Guard
vessel Healy (back).
An aerial view of the Chukchi
Borderland from the north, with tracks
from 2003, 2004 and 2007 mapping
Maritime territorial disputes in China Seas
Senkaku/Diaoyu/Diaoyutai Islands
Brief chronology
• Maritime markers
• Annexed by Japan in 1895 following ‘First Sino-Japanese War’
• 1951 San Francisco Peace Treaty => area under US control
• 1971-72 US ends its control of Okinawa/Ryukus => Japan
• 1972 PR China and Taiwan assert sovereignty
• 1970s Islands sold to Japanese family, who rents them to Japan
• 2012 Japanese gvt purchase islands from family
• Nationalism
• Instrumentalization by political opposition
– China: 1990s => anti-reform (e.g. SG Hu Yaobang
described as ‘pro-Japan’)
– Japan: => far-right ultra-nationalist parties (e.g.
Nihon Seinensha pursuing ‘anti-China’ policy)
• Perceived need by government to take a
‘hard-line’ position
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan
“There is no doubt that the Senkaku Islands are clearly
an inherent part of the territory of Japan, in light of
historical facts and based upon international law.
Indeed, the Senkaku Islands are under the valid control
of Japan. There exists no issue of territorial sovereignty
to be resolved concerning the Senkaku Islands.
It was not until 1971, after an academic survey
indicated the possibility of the existence of petroleum
resources on the surrounding sea in 1968, that the
Government of China and Taiwan authorities officially
began to make their own assertions about territorial
sovereignty of the Senkaku Islands.”
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China
“Diaoyu Dao and its affiliated islands are an inseparable part of the Chinese
territory. Diaoyu Dao is China's inherent territory in all historical, geographical and
legal terms, and China enjoys indisputable sovereignty over Diaoyu Dao. Japan's
occupation of Diaoyu Dao during the Sino-Japanese War in 1895 is illegal and
invalid. Diaoyu Dao has been an inherent territory of China since ancient times, and
China has indisputable sovereignty over Diaoyu Dao. … As China and Japan were
normalizing relations and concluding the Sino-Japanese Treaty of Peace and
Friendship in the 1970s, the then leaders of the two countries, acting in the larger
interest of China-Japan relations, reached important understanding and consensus
on "leaving the issue of Diaoyu Dao to be resolved later." But in recent years, Japan
has repeatedly taken unilateral measures concerning Diaoyu Dao and conducted in
particular the so-called "nationalization" of Diaoyu Dao. This severely infringed
upon China's sovereignty and ran counter to the understanding and consensus
reached between the older generation of leaders of the two countries. It has not
only seriously damaged China-Japan relations, but also rejected and challenged the
outcomes of the victory of the World Anti-Fascist War. China strongly urges Japan
to respect history and international law and immediately stop all actions that
undermine China's territorial sovereignty. The Chinese government has the
unshakable resolve and will to uphold the nation's territorial sovereignty. It has the
confidence and ability to safeguard China's state sovereignty and territorial
Taiwan asserts its own claims
• Cautious ‘neglect’
• Bi/Tri-lateral negotiations
– Compromise (joint-exploitation of resources)
– Local referendum (no ‘local’ population)
• Third party arbitration
• International judgment
• War?!
• Disputed territories are numerous
• Territorial disputes can easily be politicized along
nationalistic lines
• Territorial disputes can escalate into armed conflict
• Geopolitical representations of the issues and territory
are important
• There are many ways to solve territorial disputes
At home …
• Check “Canada’s territorial disputes”
interactive map
• What is the main selection criteria here, do
you know of other territorial disputes ‘within
• If interested in International Law aspects of
territorial sovereignty and territorial disputes,
see (‘Settling Territorial Disputes’ lecture):
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