International Law

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.

The Strategic Value of Territorial Islands from the Perspective of National Security

Much of the strategic value that islands have is related to their geographic potential. Defense specialist Akimoto Kazumine, a senior research fellow at the OPRF, notes that Japan’s islands are deeply tied to the regional security environment as a whole. Chinese naval forces view Japanese island territories as an impediment to their access to the western Pacific, which makes them a likely focus of any military confrontation involving China in the region. Japan needs to ensure an EEZ regime free of restrictions on use of the seas while maintaining the security of its territorial islands.

The Functions and Work of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf

How It Responds to Disputed Island Claims Among Coastal States

Iuchi Yumiko and Usui Asano, two OPRF research fellows, explain the role of the CLCS, a body tasked with examining and recommending approval of submissions from coastal states regarding their continental shelf limits. Offshore islands can serve as the baseline for extensions of these limits, making them a vital part of states’ submissions to the CLCS. When conflicting submissions are made, as by the coastal states surrounding the South China Sea, how does the commission function? And how has Japan’s 2008 submission extending its continental shelf in seven regions been regarded?

Islands' Sea Areas: Effects of a Rising Sea Level

In an era of global warming, islands and shorelines face considerable change from the rising sea level. This will clearly impact low-lying islands around the world in particular, but less attention has been given to the effect on sea areas associated with those islands and their vanishing or shifting shorelines. The legal scholar Hayashi Moritaka examines the problem of maritime zones defined in relation to baselines in the context of drastic change to the shorelines, which form the bases for them. New rules are needed in the UNCLOS framework to address this.