Washington International Law Journal


Hyung K. Lee


Parties to boundary and territory disputes often rely on maps favorable to their claims. Traditional international law, however, restricts the evidentiary value of maps so that they provide only collateral, rather than probative evidence of title. Although international tribunals have not yet abrogated the traditional rule on map evidence, their recent decisions show willingness to depart from it in certain circumstances. The emerging new rule on map evidence poses intriguing theoretical as well as practical questions. This Comment analyzes several decisions of the International Court of Justice and the Permanent Court of Arbitration to reveal the evolution in the status of map evidence in contemporary customary international law. These decisions show that today's tribunals bestow more evidentiary value on maps than ever before. The emerging new rule on map evidence may better conform to the domestic practice of states in dealing with map evidence as demonstrated by the examples of Australia and the United States. Finally, by applying the emerging rule to two territorial disputes in the Pacific Rim region—the Russo-Japanese dispute over the Southern Kuril islands, and the Korean-Japanese dispute over Dokdo island—we can surmise how it may influence the resolution of the thorny territorial problems.

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