International Law: Japan, exclusive economic zone (EEZ)

In 1978 Japan declared its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of 200 nautical miles, including around the tiny (at high tide) isolated feature Okinotorishima. If ever there were a feature caught by Article 121(3) of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, this would be it – yet Japan has continued to exercise sovereign rights over living resources in the surrounding EEZ and also included a continental shelf extending from Okinotorishima as one of the areas in its 2008 submission to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf under Article 76(8) of the Convention (about which you are not expected to know anything beyond this fact). The latter step prompted protests from China and the Republic of Korea, both arguing that Okinotorishima is too small to generate either an EEZ or a continental shelf. 

In the 2016 South China Sea arbitration, brought by the Philippines against China, an arbitral tribunal constituted under Annex VII to the Convention delivered the first comprehensive finding on the application of Article 121(3) to small islands. 

Advise Japan as to the effect of this award on the likelihood of a successful challenge by China or Korea to the capacity of Okinotorishima to generate an EEZ and continental shelf if they were jointly to confer jurisdiction on some dispute settlement forum to decide this question.

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