International Law and Japan's Territorial Disputes

Although Japan renounced its claims to these lands, the San Francisco Peace Treaty(SFPT)failed to declare a successor State. Thus, five of the highly contentious territorial disputes that plague Asia-Pacific today have their roots in the SFPT, three of which involve Japan—Kurile Islands/Northern Territories, Liancourt Rocks (Dokdo/Takeshima) and Pinnacle Islands (Diaoyu/Senkakus). Over the years, these disputes have intensified as a result of rising nationalism and a growing demand for living and non-living ocean resources. In particular, the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which were designed to accommodate the interests of the developing States in exercising exclusive resource rights out to two hundred nautical miles (nm), have had the unintended consequence of intensifying resource competition and rekindling these longstanding territorial disputes.

The "Critical Date" of the Takeshima Dispute

The territorial dispute over Takeshima began in 1952, when South Korean President Syngman Rhee asserted sovereignty over a sea area including the islands. Takeshima is Japanese territory historically and legally, and Japan has urged Korea to agree to International Court of Justice proceedings to resolve the issue, to no avail. Legal specialist Miyoshi Masahiro explores the case, defining 1952 as the “critical date” after which acts should not be taken into consideration in determining the legal status of Takeshima. South Korea must promptly recognize the need for a law-based resolution.

The Meaning of the Territorial Incorporation of Takeshima (1905)

In January 1905, the Japanese cabinet decided to incorporate Takeshima into its territory, referring to the “title by occupation.” Effective control of an island is a key to occupation. In this paper, legal specialist Tsukamoto Takashi shows various examples of effective control, conducted peacefully and continuously by Japan, and examines Korea’s claims to the island (Korean name Dokdo) based on historical records up to around the turn of the twentieth century.

The Late-Seventeenth-Century "Takeshima" Dispute, with Reference to the Dajokan Order of 1877

The territorial dispute between Japan and South Korea over Takeshima is complex, involving numerous issues that have unfolded over hundreds of years. Japanese and Korean fishermen clashed in the late seventeenth century over abalone fishing grounds around Ulleungdo. Korea points to the shogunal order banning Japanese fishers from this island—then called Takeshima in Japan—as evidence that Japan negated her claim to today’s Takeshima (Dokdo). This study, by legal specialist Tsukamoto Takashi, examines documentation of the incident to ascertain whether this is the case.

The Treaty of Peace with Japan and Takeshima's Legal Status

When the Allied powers signed the peace treaty with Japan to bring World War II to its formal close, they spelled out the territories to be taken from the former imperial Japan. In this paper, the legal specialist Tsukamoto Takashi refers to numerous historical documents to explore how the islands of Takeshima were addressed in various revisions to the peace treaty and how they were excluded from the scope of the holdings to be renounced as part of Korea in the document’s final form.