Washington International Law Journal


Seokwoo Lee


There are currently three territorial disputes over islands in East Asia in which Japan is a disputant: against Russia, over the Kurile Islands; against China and Taiwan, over the Senkaku Islands; and against Korea, over the Liancourt Rocks. Although all the claimants marshal support for their cases from historical sources, it cannot be denied that much of the uncertainty surrounding the territorial demarcation is a by-product of immediate post-World War II boundary decisions and territorial dispositions. The final disposition of territories in East Asia at the end of World War II was effected by the San Francisco Peace Treaty of 1951. The San Francisco Peace Treaty failed to define the "Kurile Islands," and further to specify the entity in whose favor Japan had renounced sovereignty over the disputed islands. Additionally, specific mention of the Senkaku Islands and the Liancourt Rocks did not appear in the territorial clauses of the San Francisco Peace Treaty. Accordingly, there is a need for a careful examination of how a series of drafts of the Treaty defined the terms of the San Francisco Peace Treaty regarding these disputed islands in East Asia. The territorial clause of the San Francisco Peace Treaty regarding the Kurile Islands can be interpreted as follows: first, the Soviet Union is the only recipient of the Kurile Islands envisaged by the Allied Powers; second, there were no agreed definitions of the "Kurile Islands" among the Allied Powers; and third, there are strong indications that the Allied Powers preferred not to resolve the matter of the ultimate disposition of the Kurile Islands in the San Francisco Peace Treaty. The Senkaku Islands were not included as either Chinese and Taiwanese or Japanese territory by the drafters of the San Francisco Peace Treaty, and Article 3 of the San Francisco Peace Treaty did not, to the point of specificity, define the territories that were placed within the area of the United Nations trusteeship with the United States as the sole administering authority. The territorial clause on the Liancourt Rocks could indicate that the San Francisco Peace Treaty assigns the Liancourt Rocks to Japan. However, due to the contradictory nature of the various drafts of the treaty, Korea may still be free to establish that the "Korea" renounced in the San Francisco Peace Treaty included the Liancourt Rocks.

First Page