Japan and the Arbitration Disputes in the Asia-Pacific Region: Rules-based or Case-based? | WHAT REALLY HAPPENED


Japan and the Arbitration Disputes in the Asia-Pacific Region: Rules-based or Case-based?

As far as the South China Sea is concerned, Japan’s support for the claims presented by the Philippines stems not only from its regulatory approach, but also from its vital economic interests. Japan gets 90 per cent of its oil imports and 60 per cent of natural gas supplies via the South China Sea, while sea routes account for 99.7 per cent of the country’s total foreign trade. What is more, Southeast Asia is home to a huge multinational production chain serving Japanese companies. To protect this artery, Tokyo actively supports Hanoi and Manila by supplying them with coast guard vessels, among other things. In addition to supporting the recent tribunal ruling, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe raised the South China Sea question at the May G7 summit in Ise-Shima and the July edition of the Asia-Europe Meeting in Ulaanbaatar. Yet The Hague’s refusal to recognize the disputed Spratly Islands as islands could undermine Japan’s own claims to the Okinotorishima atoll in the Philippine Sea. Tokyo views the Okinotorishima as a full-fledged island complete with a 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone. In turn, Beijing and Taipei insist that Okinotorishima is an atoll and not an island. Interpreting The Hague ruling as a precedent or case similar to Okinotorishima would hurt Tokyo’s position, and the Japanese government was quick to announce that the South China Sea verdict only applied to People’s Republic of China and the Philippines...

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