Problems and Practices in Maritime Delimitation in East Asia: With Special Reference to Taiwan

AuthorMichael S.T. Gau
PositionAssociate Professor of International Law at National Taiwan Ocean University. LL.B. (NTU), LL.M. (Cantab & King?s College, London), Ph.D. (Leiden).
Problems and Practices in
Maritime Delimitation in
East Asia: With Special
Reference to Taiwan
Michael Sheng-ti Gau
The countries in East Asia continue to have problems in maritime boundary
delimitation. The collision on September 7, 2010 between a Chinese fishing vessel
(Minjinyu) and a Japanese patrol boat in the waters near Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands is
interesting to observe as a step in dispute settlement process. The differences between
the PRC and Japan on maritime boundary delimitation for the East China Sea and
the legal status of Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands are demonstrated by this incident. To see
things in their context, it is necessary to observe the practices of East Asian
countries in handling their maritime boundary delimitations, especially those
involving islands with disputed legal status. The rules of international law relating
to the pacific settlement of dispute and maritime delimitation dispute resolution,
which involve a preliminary sovereignty dispute over islands, are also relevant as a
much broader background. The author will examine why certain maritime
delimitation cases are particularly hard to handle. The lessons drawn from this paper
is inspiring for Taiwan, a long-time marginalized player in East Asian regional
affairs. The author will examine the difficulties and opportunities for Taiwan in
maritime boundary delimitation and offer a suggestion on how to accomplish such
task with neighboring countries.
Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands, Japans Northern Territories, Maritime
Boundary Delimitation, JDZ, Taiwan, Minjinyu
KFBJM3)3122*  377
* Associate Professor of International Law at National Taiwan Ocean University. LL.B. (NTU), LL.M. (Cantab & Kings
College, London), Ph.D. (Leiden). The author is thankful for the comments given by the reviewers and the
encouragement of Professor Hu Nien-Tsu who organized a 2010 Conference on National Oceans Policymaking on
August 2-7, 2010 in Taipei, Taiwan where the main ideas of this paper were presented. The opinions expressed here
1. Introduction
On September 7, 2010, a Chinese fishing trawler, Minjinyu, collided with a Japanese
Coast Guard patrol boat, Yonakuni, near Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands. Japanese officers
then boarded Minjinyu to arrest the captain, charging him with obstruction of law
enforcementunder the Japanese domestic law.
This enraged the Peoples Republic of
China(PRC); Premier Wen Jiabao demanded the immediate and unconditional release
of the captain. On September 24 of that year, Japanese prosecutors decided to let the
captain leave, after 17 days of detention. The official reason for his release was that the
damage to the Japanese Coast Guard vessels was slight and no one was injured.
this incident, waters surrounding the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands have been repeatedly
visited by the PRC patrol boats belonging to Regional Bureau of the East China Sea
Fishery Management under the Ministry of Agriculture.
As of March 10, 2011, eight
visits by such patrol boats have been sighted by Japan. Among the vessels are Yu-Zheng
(Fishery Administration) No. 201 and Yu-Zheng No. 202.
It is important to note that,
though being warned by Japanese aircrafts, all these visits have not been physically
The collision incident and its aftermath indicate the different positions between the
PRC and Japan on the maritime boundary delimitation and the legal status of the
Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands. The complex situation cannot be correctly understood,
analyzed, characterized, and predicted without first looking at relevant rules of
international law and at behavior patterns of the two States when dealing with similar
problems of maritime delimitation involving islands with disputed legal status.
As another stakeholder, the Republic of China Government on Taiwan (ROC) is
marginalized (if not ignored) in regional and international affairs.
Given the special
378 
are those of the author alone, not representing any government agencies. The author can be reached at /Address: No. 2 Pei-Ning Road, Keelung 20224 Taiwan, ROC.
1Hu Feiyue
Japans action off Diaoyu raises concern
, C
(Sept. 10, 2011)
available at (last visited on Sept. 27, 2011).
2Ken Jimbo,
Matter of Fact: Japan-China Relations Strained over Senkaku Islands
(Sept. 10, 2011),
available at ( last visited on Sep. 27, 2011).
List of the PRC Fishery Management Patrol Boats ,
available at
5741/5708.html (last visited on Oct. 6, 2011).
Patrol Boat from Mainland China Found in Waters of Diaoyu (available only in Chinese), C
PRC Patrol Boat Enters Waters of Diaoyu
available at (all last visited on
July 34, 2011).
5Today, 23 States recognize the ROC government.
the list of States recognizing the ROC,
available at (last visited on Oct. 10, 2011).

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