Tag Archive | "maritime"


Critical Analysis: Pride and History at Stake in ICJ Ruling Defining Maritime Border Between Peru and Chile


The ICJ redefines the Pacific maritime boundary between Peru and Chile. Image Source: AFP

About a month ago, the International Court of Justice at the Hague (“ICJ”) issued a ruling in a dispute between Peru and Chile that was instigated in 2008. Over 14,000 square miles of ocean in international waters were at stake. The ruling granted Peru control over the majority of the disputed waters, but Chile retained some of the most fertile fishing waters.  Peru and Chile are the world’s largest exporters of fish, making it a primary economic resource for both countries. Peruvians consider the ICJ ruling an opportunity to gain national pride and redemption after being defeated in the War of the Pacific over a century ago.

While Peru filed the action in 2008, this dispute reaches back to the 19th century. The War of the Pacific centered on a conflict over the nitrate industry, which resulted in a Chilean victory over both Peru and Bolivia. This gave Chile the power to annex coastal provinces. The War of the Pacific created uncertainty regarding coastal boundaries that continued into the 20th Century.

A maritime boundary was partially created in 1952 upon the signing of the Santiago Declaration. The Declaration’s purpose was to establish sovereignty and exclusive jurisdiction over the waters that are adjacent to Peru, Chile, and Ecuador. The initial concern involved problems with whaling fleets that threatened the resources in the area. However, some 30 years later, Peru took the position that the maritime territory was not adequately defined.

In 1986, four years after the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea went into effect, Peru visited Chile with the intent of re-negotiating the water territories. Chile was uncooperative and was not amenable to negotiation, which led to this suit in the ICJ. Peru asked the ICJ to define the maritime border between Peru and Chile based on the criteria of equidistance in the contested area. Chile contended that the border should extend parallel to the equator. Because of these disagreements, Peru wanted the ICJ to legally define both countries’ maritime territory.

The ICJ’s ruling, which cannot be appealed, struck a balance between the two countries’ arguments by announcing that a parallel border already existed that extended 80 nautical miles to the equator, and then the ICJ “drew a line southwest to where the countries’ 200-mile territorial waters end.” While the ICJ largely agreed with Peru’s position, Chile retained much of the fishing territory. Chile is still concerned, however, about the effect the decision will have on its fishing industry. Peru’s victory is primarily a “symbolic one: for the first time it has won a battle with Chile, and it has done so by peaceful, legal means and through professional diplomacy.” Because Chile retains much of the fruitful waters, there is promise that relations between the two countries will improve. However, Peru remains apprehensive with regard to whether Chile will enforce the ruling adequately and still expects protesting from Chilean citizens. While some Chilean fishermen have protested in a northern port, protests have not been overwhelming so far and local authorities have been able to control the aftermath.

Lydia Rice is a 3L and Candidacy Editor of the Denver Journal of International Law & Policy

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Tensions between China and Japan  increased last week over the ownership of Senkaku and Diaoyu Islands. (Christian Science Monitor)

Critical Analysis: Maritime Tensions between China and Japan Increase

Tensions between China and Japan  increased last week over the ownership of Senkaku and Diaoyu Islands. (Christian Science Monitor)

Tensions between China and Japan increased last week over the ownership of Senkaku and Diaoyu Islands. (Christian Science Monitor)

Maritime disputes between the Japanese and Chinese continue to escalate. The Japanese-named Senkaku Islands, and the Chinese-named Diaoyu Islands continue to be a major source of conflict between the two nations. Last week, the situation escalated when Japan scrambled fighter jets after a Chinese plane flew over the islands.  Though other island disputes between these and other countries exist, this is the first time the dispute over these islands has involved aircraft. These territorial tensions have only risen since Japan purchased three of the islands from a private owner three months ago.

Both countries have attempted to claim the right to these islands since the United Nations survey declared that the islands were rich in resources, the most important being oil. The issue has only increased as oil prices have risen in both countries. This latest action on the part of the Chinese is apparently one part of a strategy of steady escalation in an attempt to reclaim the islands. Since September, Chinese ships have been spotted in waters close to the islands, including warships and law enforcement patrol boats.

The presence of the Chinese Navy and Air Force is only making the situation more dangerous. China is trying to “unilaterally change the status quo of the islands” by using its forces as evidence of their longstanding claim over the islands. All action taken has been in hopes of deterring Japan from further developing the islands, but this recent escalation goes to show that the problem could soon get out of hand. Not only is the situation, which has enraged Chinese and Japanese citizens alike, becoming more volatile, it is also causing economic damages to both nations. Reports are now saying that these economic consequences could be disastrous.

The United States has not abstained from making declarations on these disputes. While the United States maintains that it takes no side on this territorial dispute, Washington acknowledged its belief that the islands belong to the Japanese. The United States has also officially voiced its concerns over the situation, stating that rising tensions and miscalculations could have serious negative consequences.

There seems to be no sign of tensions easing in the near future either. Japan maintains that it will strengthen the surveillance power of its air force and continues to lodge complaints with the Chinese government over the dispute. As Japan maintains official control over the islands, China’s recent actions are a violation of international law, which forbids one nation from entering another nation’s airspace without having permission.  Furthermore, a nation also has the right to expel unauthorized aircraft with force. One can only hope that force will not be necessary to resolve this dispute.

Bailey Woods is a 2L and a staff editor on the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy

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University of Denver Sturm College of Law