© 2010

Island Disputes and Maritime Regime Building in East Asia

Between a Rock and a Hard Place


Part of the The Political Economy of the Asia Pacific book series (PEAP)

About this book


This book explores the three most prominent island disputes in East Asia: the Dokdo/Takeshima, the Senkaku/Diaoyu, and the Paracel and Spratly disputes. These island disputes clearly illustrate the puzzling pattern of continuity and mutual restraint in East Asia’s territorial conflicts. In dealing with sovereignty issues, East Asian countries have engaged in varied patterns of diplomatic and military behaviors. In some cases, one can find examples of the aggressive use of military force and intransigent bargaining strategies, while in others military inaction and accommodative diplomacy are equally evident. When and why do disputants pursue conflictual policies? Conversely, why do they at other times seek the containment, if not the resolution, of territorial disputes by shelving thorny sovereignty issues?

This book uses a territorial bargaining game framework to analyze various stages of dispute initiation, escalation, and de-escalation in a consistent and systematic manner. It starts from an assumption that territory involves mixed motive games, which can be characterized as having elements of partnership, competition, and conflict. Consistent with conventional wisdom, this book finds that the combination of resource competition, fluid geopolitics, and unstable domestic power dynamics has regularly brought about the initiation and escalation of the three island disputes. More importantly, this book discovers that the pacific influence of economic interdependence has repeatedly prevented the sovereignty disputes from escalating into a full-scale diplomatic and/or military crisis


Conflict Conflicts Dokdo/Takeshima East Asia Paracel/Spratly Sea of Japan Senkaku/Diaoyu South China Sea United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) geopolitics

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.Yonsei UniversitySeoulRepublic of Korea

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