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Korea-Japan Fisheries Agreement and Dokdo Dominium are Irrelevant

Korea-Japan Fisheries Agreement and Dokdo Dominium are Irrelevant

Posted March. 21, 2005 22:36,   


Regarding the abrogation and renegotiation of the second Korea-Japan Fisheries Agreement raised by some politicians, the government reconfirmed its policy to separate the Dokdo dispute and the Fisheries Agreement.

Maritime Affaires and Fisheries Minister Oh Keo-don held a press meeting yesterday and said, “The Korea-Japan Fisheries Agreement has no effect on the Dokdo dispute.”

This can be interpreted as an elucidation of official opposition to the argument from some that Korea should nullify the second Korea-Japan Fisheries Agreement (1998) in the backdrop of the Dokdo dispute.

It seems, however, that controversy will continue as the argument that the agreement placed Dokdo the center of the Boundary Waters and undermined the island’s dominium is quite strong.

In the first Fisheries Agreement concluded in 1965, a distance of 12 nautical miles (nm) from the coast was designated as an exclusive fishing zone.

Nevertheless, according to the 1994 U.N. Law of the Sea Convention, which stipulated 200 nm from the coast as the definition of an exclusive economic zone (EEZ), a new Korea-Japan Fisheries Agreement was needed as some waters between the two countries coincided.

At issue was the starting line of the EEZs. When Korea measured its EEZ from Dokdo, it extended to the claimed EEZ of Japan, resulting in a deadlock in negotiations.

Finally, a new Korea-Japan Fisheries Agreement was concluded, designating Dokdo as “the center of the boundary waters” – similar to high-seas status in which neither side can argue for exclusive rights.

Concerning this point, those who argue for the nullification of the Agreement state that “Dokdo was regarded not as an island but a reef. This undermined Korea’s rights over Dokdo.”

The U.N. Law of the Sea says that a reef that cannot sustain independent economic activity is not entitled to have its own EEZ.

The government explained, “In the Korea-Japan Fisheries Agreement, the EEZ is only limited to fishing, and the negotiations to ‘decide on the frontiers of the EEZ’ is an ongoing agenda.” This means that Dokdo’s status or dominium – which includes territorial waters 12 nautical miles off Dokdo – are not affected, even though Dokdo is not included in the Korean EEZ in the agreement.

Minister Oh made clear, “If we abrogate the Fisheries Agreement, our boats will no longer be able to fish in the Japanese EEZ, and it can bring about a collapse in near-sea fishing. We have fished 1.6 times more than the Japanese did in each other’s EEZs since the 1999 Fisheries Agreement came into effect.”

“If maritime collision occurs in the middle lines of the imaginary EEZ due to the abrogation of the Fisheries Agreement, Japan’s intention to make Dokdo a conflict zone will be realized,” he said in addition.

Eun-Woo Lee libra@donga.com