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Playing the Sovereignty Game: Understanding Japan's Territorial Disputes

O'Shea, Paul (2012) Playing the Sovereignty Game: Understanding Japan's Territorial Disputes. PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

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Available under License Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 UK: England & Wales.

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This dissertation fills a gap in the literature created by the focus of conventional International Relations approaches on the escalation and de-escalation of conflict in territorial disputes. Japan’s territorial disputes, while prone to controversy and flare-ups, have not witnessed any militarised conflict in their recent histories. By shifting the focus from conflict to sovereignty the dissertation allows an examination of what does take place in Japan’s territorial disputes, and provides an understanding of Japan’s approach to its territorial disputes and how this approach varies across time as well as across each individual dispute. The dissertation takes a constructivist approach to the relationship between international politics and international law, constructing a conceptual framework – the sovereignty game – which is adapted to the study of Japan’s territorial disputes. Simply put, in contemporary international relations, states rarely use force to conquer territory. Rather, they play the sovereignty game, in which they attempt to gain or maintain sovereignty over a disputed territory by (a) successfully undertaking exercises of sovereignty over the disputed territory, and preventing other states in the dispute from engaging in exercises of sovereignty over that territory; and (b) by gaining international recognition of sovereignty over the disputed territory. States seek to exercise sovereignty by utilising their resources (capital), and the extent to which they employ this capital is determined by the relative value of the territory in question. The dissertation applies this sovereignty game approach to each of Japan’s three territorial disputes, the Liancourt Rocks dispute with South Korea, the Pinnacle Islands dispute with China and Taiwan, and the Northern Territories dispute with Russia, examining the dynamics of the sovereignty game in the post-Cold War period. The dissertation finds that, due to the different relative values of the territorial disputes, Japan’s approach varies: it has taken a formal, legalistic approach to the Liancourt Rocks and Pinnacle Islands dispute – at least until the mid-2000s – using sovereignty only to preserve its existing position in the disputes. However, its approach to sovereignty in the Northern Territories dispute has been characterised by a sense of moral justice, thus it seeks to prevent all Russian exercises of sovereignty while constantly attempting to push its own. 

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Social Sciences (Sheffield) > School of East Asian Studies (Sheffield)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.557510
Depositing User: Mr Paul O'Shea
Date Deposited: 19 Mar 2012 14:17
Last Modified: 27 Apr 2016 13:33
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/2212

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