Tuesday, 28 January 2014

ICJ defines Peru-Chile maritime border

On 27 January the UN court at The Hague delivered its eagerly awaited verdict on the bitter Peru-Chile maritime dispute. Judges at the ICJ awarded parts of the Pacific Ocean to Peru, the claimant in this case, while keeping considerable, rich fishing waters within Chile’s borders. The disputed territory amounted to 38,000 km2 of some of the world’s richest fishing grounds, invaluable to these two Latin American nations, both of whom being the world’s biggest exporters of fishmeal.

Following Peru’s application to the ICJ in 2008, the Court yesterday allocated 20,000 km2 to the claimant, with control over an additional 28,000 km2 of Pacific international waters. The Peruvian President, Ollanta Humala, said that he was pleased with the outcome and would “take the required actions and measures immediately for its prompt implementation". Lima wanted the maritime boundary to extend out in a south westerly direction, contiguous to the land border.
Santiago disagreed with this interpretation, believing instead that the boundary should lie parallel to the equator, based on bilateral treaties signed in the 1950s. “Its position throughout the proceedings was that the Parties had already delimited the whole maritime area in dispute, by agreement, in 1952, and that, accordingly, no maritime delimitation should be performed by the Court,” the judges said.  Chile’s President Michelle Bachelet said she would begin implementing the ruling gradually, despite citing it as a “painful loss”.
In its final ruling, the Court “defined the course of the maritime boundary between the Parties without determining the precise geographical co-ordinates. Moreover, the Court has not been asked to do so in the Parties’ final submissions. The Court expects that the Parties will determine these co-ordinates in accordance with the present Judgment, in the spirit of good neighbourliness.” However, it did say that the boundary should begin at the same point that it does now. 

Friday, 17 January 2014

Peru, Chile await ICJ verdict


On 27 January the ICJ will deliver its verdict on the centuries-old maritime border dispute between Chile and Peru. Despite promises from both nations that they will respect the ruling of the Court, the decision will likely strain relations between the Latin American neighbours, who continue to enjoy closer economic bonds through bilateral trade, tourism and investment. The marine area in question is rich in Pacific fish; a vital commodity, considering both states are the world’s top two exporters of fishmeal.
The two countries have no formal treaty in place designating their marine borders, which have been a source of tension between the two countries since Chile invaded Peru in the War of the Pacific (1879-84). Chile considers the matter settled after two treaties in 1952 and 1954 addressed fishing rights in the Pacific Ocean, and stresses that it seeks a climate of peace and harmony with its neighbour. "Chile is a nation that, as we have said on various opportunities, respects international law," said Foreign Affairs Minister Alfredo Moreno in December 2013.
Peru argues the maritime border should follow the downward curve of the land border, rather than the current configuration, which stretches out from the coast along longitudinal lines. Its interpretation of the maritime border area would give Peru control of an additional 37,900km2 of the Pacific Ocean – an area the size of Taiwan. The claim is backed by 99 per cent of Peruvians, according to Peruvian newspaper El Comercio.
The case was initiated by former Peruvian president Alejandro Toledo in 2008 after diplomatic efforts aimed at Chile rescinding sovereignty over areas of the waters came to nothing. Current President Ollanta Humalainformed the Chilean government that, while the issue would not be a priority for his administration, they would see the case through. According to cables released by whistle-blowing site Wikileaks, Humala and his predecessors see Peru’s case in The Hague as a way to depoliticise the border dispute. An unfavourable verdict could derail this plan. 

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Japanese jets intercept Chinese plane

On 7 January, Japanese fighter jets were scrambled to intercept a Chinese government plane flying towards the disputed Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. The Y-12 propeller plane flew unannounced into Japan’s Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) approximately one hundred miles from the Islands, which China refers to as the Diaoyu Islands. This incident is the latest in a series of confrontations between China and Japan, both of whom seeking ownership of the uninhabited Islands in a bid to claim hegemony over the strategic, hydrocarbon-rich East China Sea.
Tuesday’s events follow what the Japanese view as China’s belligerent announcement of its new ADIZ back in November 2013, which led to the US, Japan’s main ally, flying two B52 bombers through the newly announced air space in protest at the move.  The navies and air forces of the two Asian giants have also repeatedly confronted each other in the locale of the Islands since Japan nationalised them in 2012, with both premiers taking a tougher stand over foreign policy. International observers worry that, if these confrontations continue to increase in frequency and intensity, they could escalate to military engagements drawing in other world powers.
In an unusual diplomatic exchange between officials of the two countries, the Chinese Ambassador to the UK, Liu Xiaoming, wrote "If militarism is like the haunting Voldermort of Japan, the Yasukuni shrine in Tokyo is a kind of horcrux, representing the darkest parts of that nation's soul." In response to the comments referencing Harry Potter’s arch nemesis, the Japanese Ambassador, Keiichi Hayashi, warned that his counterpart’s country risked becoming the “Lord Voldemort of East Asia”.
It is believed the eight uninhabited islands are located near potentially lucrative oil and gas reserves and strategic shipping lanes, as well as being situated in valuable fishing waters. The island's Exclusive Economic Zone would grant the controlling state sovereignty over these resources.
For further analysis on the claims by each side to these islands, please visit our border briefing page on the East China Sea.