Thursday, June 23, 2005

Some Really Cheap Tokyo Real Estate

While Japan has been scheming to overturn IWC limitations on its whaling activities, it has also been finding new ways to annoy its neighbors. The most hilarious of these is Japan's attempt to establish Okinotori, an uninhabited series of rocks/islands in the Pacific. Japan has done this by assigning Okinotori a Tokyo address thereby making it part of the municipality of Tokyo. The address is: No.1, Okinotori Island, Ogasawara Village, Tokyo. Of course, Okinotori is just a bit farther from Tokyo's downtown than most Tokyo suburbs. In fact, it is over 1700 km south of Tokyo. This is ridiculous. It's like the City of New York establishing an address on Bermuda.

Of course, the whole point of this is that if Okinotori is an island that is part of Japan, Japan also gets the undersea economic development rights around the island pursuant to the Law of the Sea Treaty. China's reaction actually has been relatively muted.

This whole dispute seems a very good candidate for an international court or arbitral tribunal. While there is a bit at stake, it's not something that the two countries are probably willing to fight over. Plus, the legal determination seems like an interesting one: is a rock that is merely two miles long at high tide an island within the meaning of Article 121 of the Law of the Sea. And an agreement to refer to an international tribunal would be a good confidence-building measure in a relationship that needs plenty of confidence-building. But we'll see.

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