International Law

U.S. Recognition of Japanese Sovereignty Over the Senkaku Islands

Recent Chinese intimidation against Japan over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea presents an ideal opportunity for the United States to strengthen the alliance with Tokyo and enhance regional strategic security and stability. On June 22, 2020, the Ishigaki City Council of Okinawa voted to strengthen Japan’s administrative control of the Senkaku Islands by reasserting that the islands are Japanese territory and changing their administrative name from “Tonoshiro” to “Tonoshiro Senkaku.”1 The United States should acknowledge the name change and officially recognize the Senkakus as Japanese territory, as it once did before the reversion of Okinawa to Japan in 1972.

Legal Status of Uninhabited Islets and Small Islands —Relationship Between Customary Law and Treaty Law―

When Japan submitted its application for the extension of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles to the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf on 13 November 2008, China and South Korea submitted, one after another, their statements of position to the Commission, claiming that they could not approve the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and the continental shelf measured from the base-point of Okinotori Island, criticizing the position of Japan1. Their arguments were based on the grounds that Okinotori Island is a “rock” under Article 121, paragraph 3, of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and cannot have its own EEZ or continental shelf.

International Legal Regime regarding Islands and Rocks

maritime law) from an expert perspective has already been published by Professors Yamamoto Soji and Kuribayashi Tadao, among others,1 and the Ocean Policy Research Foundation has advanced efforts, in particular regarding Okinotorishima Island.2 What such research has made clear is that this issue has a complex history involving the actual interests of many nations, that there are many unclear points regarding the present legal regime, and that state practice and scholars’ views vary. The purpose of this paper is to summarize, as simply as possible, the international legal regime currently applicable to islands and rocks and its main points of dispute, while limiting the review of past developments to the minimum. Finally, I apply those results to Okinotorishima Island and present a few proposals. The principles of the international legal regime pertaining to this issue are prescribed in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), especially Article 121. As of February 16, 2007, UNCLOS has been ratified by 152 nations and the European Community. The United States, which is one of the few coastal states that have not ratified this treaty, virtually accepts its provisions. Accordingly, UNCLOS has become an international law that is almost universally applied.

Japan’s Island Territories and the Three Manners of Warfare

Prussian general and military theorist Carl Philipp Gottfried von Clausewitz characterized war in his work Vom Kriege, i.e. On War, as “An act of force is to compel our enemy to do our will.l.1” Clausewitz, in his own words, masterfully distills the essence of war from a political science perspective. Meanwhile, French political philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau defined war sociologically, asserting that “...the effect of a mutual, steady and manifest disposition to destroy the enemy State, or at least weaken it, by all means possible. This disposition reduced to actions is war properly so called; so long as it remains without consequences, it remains nothing but the state any assortment of means it has at its disposal.

Legal Status of Uninhabited Islets and Small Islands—Relationship Between Customary Law and Treaty Law―

As the Senkaku Islands are Japanese territory, Japan has jurisdiction over the territorial sea and EEZ pertaining to them. China also claims the islands, though, which superficially presents competing jurisdictional claims. In this paper, the legal specialist Miyoshi Masahiro examines aspects of the law governing Japan’s response to foreign governmental ships in its territorial sea and EEZ. He also explores the causes of the overlapping claims problem from an international law perspective.

The South Sea Islands and Japanese Mandatory Rule over Them

As the Senkaku Islands are Japanese territory, Japan has jurisdiction over the territorial sea and EEZ pertaining to them. China also claims the islands, though, which superficially presents competing jurisdictional claims. In this paper, the legal specialist Miyoshi Masahiro examines aspects of the law governing Japan’s response to foreign governmental ships in its territorial sea and EEZ. He also explores the causes of the overlapping claims problem from an international law perspective.

The Discovery of Islands and Pirates

Struggles for territory often underlie the history of mankind. Territorial disputes develop into wars, which end with the conclusion of peace treaties. With few exceptions, peace treaties include clauses of territory. As titles to acquire national territory, leading books of international law usually cite six methods: discovery, cession, annexation, prior occupation, conquest, and prescription. In fact, until the first half of the 16th century, scholars stood for discovery as a complete title to territory, but later it was believed that discovery was just an inchoate title and that this title needed to be completed by effective prior occupation within a reasonable time. It is said that in the Middle Ages, the size of feudal lords’ territory was determined according to their power. As years go by, such a way of thinking seemed to lay the foundation for overseas expansion in the Age of Exploration. “The discovery of America and that of the passage to East India via the Cape of Good Hope are two of the greatest and most important events recorded in the history of mankind.” This is the famous remark made by Adam Smith (1723-1790), and it would be safe to say that these two discoveries, in other words, the discovery of the American continents and that of the passage to India, led to the development of world history to the present day with Western Europe as its center. Why, then, are they called “discovery”? Discovery requires something unknown. It was the Europeans that they were unknown to, and they might not have been unknown to native Americans and Indians. Until the 15th century, the Europeans did not know regions other than Europe, nor did they show any interest therein. Formerly, this period was often called the “Age of Discovery,” but objections were raised to the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus, and today, it is called not “discovery” but “encounter” and the “Age of Exploration.” Even in the 20th century, there are cases in which the acquisition of territory through discovery was mentioned in international arbitral awards, and therefore, discovery is not necessarily an issue of the past. This article sheds light on the act of discovering islands and examines what effects discovery had on the world in subsequent years with focus on the remarkable activities of pirates in particular.

The Law of Naval Warfare and China's Maritime Militia

The sheer size and scope of the vast network of China’s maritime militia complicates the battlespace, degrades any opponent’s decision-making process and exposes adversaries to political dilemmas that will make them more cautious to act against China during a maritime crisis or naval war. The legal implications are no less profound. The maritime militia has emerged in parallel with China’s ascent to great power status. As the world’s newest major maritime power, China warrants close attention. The rapid growth in the size and quality of the PLAN has raised concern regionally, as well as in Delhi and Washington, D.C. Since China soon will have the second largest navy in the world, it is especially important to explore the implications of its auxiliary militia force under international law.

Exercising Enforcement Jurisdiction around the Senkaku Islands

As the Senkaku Islands are Japanese territory, Japan has jurisdiction over the territorial sea and EEZ pertaining to them. China also claims the islands, though, which superficially presents competing jurisdictional claims. In this paper, the legal specialist Miyoshi Masahiro examines aspects of the law governing Japan’s response to foreign governmental ships in its territorial sea and EEZ. He also explores the causes of the overlapping claims problem from an international law perspective.

The Regime of Islands in International Conventions (Part 1)

What we call “the law of the sea” is not a single set of rules, but a complex international legal landscape featuring a range of multilateral and bilateral agreements. In the first part of his multipart paper, the legal specialist Terasaki Naomichi Hiro examines the regime of islands as it developed through the discussion at the 1930 Hague Codification Conference, two of the UN Conferences on the Law of the Sea, and other gatherings, and as it was presented in documents including the four 1958 Geneva Conventions on the Law of the Sea.