Why Won’t Japan Send the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands Dispute to the ICJ?

by Julian Ku

The former owners of the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, whose sale to the Japanese government has unleashed hundreds of violent anti-Japan protests across China, are calling for Japan to send the dispute to the International Court of Justice.

China is very outspoken about its position over the Senkaku Islands, but Japan has its own position as well, and it needs to get that message out to the global community — and I think the best way is to turn to the ICJ,” Kurihara told The Japan Times. “Once both sides start stating their positions and listing their evidence of sovereignty, there is no end. . . . An objective decision should be made under international law, not by the people of both countries.

Nicholas Kristof has a post with a similar call for the ICJ, and with a sympathetic take on the strength of China’s legal claim to the Senkaku/Diaoyu. Thus far, I am not aware of any reports that Japan has welcomed the possibility of ICJ arbitration here, although I’ve heard that they have done so in the past.

It is curious that Japan has not called for the ICJ to settle this dispute, given it has done just that in its ongoing dispute with South Korea over the Dokdo Islands.  While it is true that Japan could not force China to agree to ICJ arbitration, a call for arbitration would put China on the defensive in the same way it has (sort of) put Korea on the defensive over the Dokdo.

The cynical explanation is probably the best one. Japan is more than happy to call for the ICJ when the other country is in possession of the disputed territory (e.g. Korea) but when they possess the territory, they have a different view on the merits of international adjudication. Hypocritical? Yes. Surprising? No.

http://opiniojuris.org/2012/09/20/why-wont-japan-send-the-senkakudiaoyu-islands-dispute-to-the-icj/

4 Responses

  1. China faces the same situation with other Southeast Asian countries like the Philippines, Malaysia and Vietnam. Why doesn’t China settle those territorial disputes with the ICJ? The cynical explanation is probably the best one.

    China has a territorial dispute with the Philippines over the Spratly Islands. So why doesn’t China settle the matter with the Philippines at the ICJ?  Because when China possesses the territory, they have a different view on the merits of international adjudication. Hypocritical? Yes. Surprising? No.

  2. But in the end this works in favor of powerful states. They are the most interested in rules and principles of law that keeps them outside the reach of the courts.

  3. But in the end this works in favor of powerful states.

    If that’s the case, China should settle the disputes in ICJ! 

    Why ain’t they doing it?  

Trackbacks and Pingbacks

  1. […] dispute the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands ; S. Korea and Japan dispute the Liancourt Rocks . Japan is willing to submit these disputes to the International Court of Justice when it’s not in possession of the […]