No miraculous solutions to the puzzle of territory-history-democracy-law?


On 30 March 2015, Tetsuya Toyoda spoke to the AHRCentre members, students and faculty about four major island disputes in East Asia: the Kurile dispute, the Pinnacle dispute, the Liancourt dispute, and the Spratly/Paracel disputes. These disputes involve Russia, Japan, China, Taiwan, North and South Koreas, Vietnam, the Phillippines, Malaysia and Brunei. He said that they cannot be fully understood without historical backgrounds because of the memory of national humiliation in the late 19th or 20th century, public sentiments on one side (or sometimes on both sides) are at odds with the solutions international law can offer.

While international law takes as crucial whether the occupation of the territory received any form of recognition, the sense of international justice (which can be of course subjective and one-sided, and even manipulated) considers it impossible to justify one's sovereignty on an imposed recognition, explicit or implicit. On top of that, democracy makes the settlement of territorial disputes even more difficult, because it makes diplomacy more directly subordinate to public opinions (which explains why Japan and India have been so awkward in handling with their respective territorial disputes). There are no miraculous solutions to the puzzle of territory-history-democracy-law, but more efforts for sharing understanding on international law and justice would help us overcome these challenges in the long term.

With thanks to Tetsuya Toyoda for this summation.