July 30, 2015
Proposal of Referral to the International Court of Justice
Following the establishment of the Syngman Rhee Line by the ROK, Japan has repeatedly protested strongly against each action by the ROK; actions that include the ROK’s own claims of sovereignty over Takeshima, fishing activities around Takeshima, firing on patrol vessels, and the construction of structures on the islands.
For the peaceful settlement of the dispute, Japan proposed in September 1954 to the ROK with a note verbale that this dispute over the sovereignty of Takeshima be referred to the International Court of Justice (the ICJ). However, the ROK rejected the proposal in October of the same year (Note 1) In addition, on the occasion of the foreign ministerial talks in March 1962, Zentarō Kosaka, the then Minister of Foreign Affairs of Japan, made a proposal to Choi Duk Shin, the then Minister of Foreign Affairs of the ROK, to refer the dispute to the ICJ, but this proposal was again not accepted by the ROK.
In addition, in August 2012, Japan delivered another note verbale to propose referring the dispute on the sovereignty over Takeshima to the ICJ once again, after Lee Myung-bak, the then President of the Republic of Korea, became the first ever Korean president to visit Takeshima. However, the ROK rejected Japan’s proposal in the same month (Note 2).
Note 1: Referral to the ICJ was also suggested to the ROK by the US in 1954. In the report he made on his return home, Ambassador Van Fleet noted that “[t]hough the United States considers that the islands are Japanese territory […] [o]ur position has been that the dispute might properly be referred to the International Court of Justice and this suggestion has been informally conveyed to the Republic of Korea.”
Note 2: The ICJ has jurisdiction over a dispute only when all parties to the dispute have agreed to seek its settlement in the Court. Since 1958, Japan has accepted the ICJ’s compulsory jurisdiction even when another country brings a unilateral suit against it without Japan’s consent, as Japan respects the rule of law in the international community. However, the ROK does not take the same stance. As a result, even if Japan refers the case unilaterally to the ICJ, it has no jurisdiction as long as the ROK does not accept it.