In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section International Law in Northeast Asia

  • Introduction
  • Regional Perspectives on International Law
  • Relationship between International Law and Municipal Law
  • Historical Approaches
  • Cultural and Philosophical Approaches
  • Settlement of Disputes and the Use of Force
  • Trade and Economic Relations

International Law International Law in Northeast Asia
Seok-Woo Lee, Lowell Bautista
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 April 2019
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199796953-0180


The region of Northeast Asia, comprising mainly of China, Korea, and Japan, is not a neutral, static, or self-evident geographical region. The underlying commonality of geographic proximity, shared history, racial and ethno-linguistic heritage, religious and cultural traditions, and economic complementarity underpin the aggregation of these core countries of East Asia, which all belong to the northeastern landmass and islands bordering the Pacific Ocean, into the Northeast Asian subregion of Asia. The term, however, is purely descriptive in nature, and unity, especially in a region with a distinct and long history of disputes and conflicts, is merely aspirational. Northeast Asia is considered an important economic region of the world, a recognition of the economic success and further potential of the countries that comprise the region. There is growing acknowledgment of the influence and contribution of Northeast Asian countries in the development of international law, albeit mainly confined in participation in international organs. However, the notion of a distinct, cohesive, unified, and systematic notion of international law from a Northeast Asian perspective is at present untenable and not adequately supported by literature. In academic discourse, the nonexistence of formal regional institutions and governance structures, rules and normative behavior, shared values and norms, and collective identity all challenge the notion of regional perspective of international law in a strict sense. The corpus of literature on state practice, international and foreign relations, and other multifaceted aspects of international law among the states in Northeast Asia is vast. However, the nature, quality, breadth and depth of treatment, and scholarship of literature regarding international law in Northeast Asia especially in respect of each of the countries in the region vary enormously for each country. This work is by no means exhaustive and is merely intended to provide a scaffold of the existing literature. In particular, the focus of this work is principally on selected academic legal scholarship on crucial aspects of international law as practiced by China, Korea, and Japan. This work, in a deliberate effort to present a comprehensive picture, will essentially focus on broad and general issues of public international law. It intentionally excludes materials primarily on the domestic laws and policies of the specific countries as well as other cross-border issues that involve the countries but not specifically confined to the region (e.g., the South China Sea disputes that involve China and other claimant states outside of the region and cross-strait relations between China and Taiwan) and other more contemporary issues and challenges such as the rise of China and its geopolitical implications on the region and beyond.

General Overviews

There are a substantial number of monographs, edited books, and journal articles on international law in Northeast Asia, published in Asia or outside of the region, written in English. The relative scarcity of written works in English on various aspects of international law involving China, Korea, and Japan, mirror the de facto dominance of Western perspectives in the field of international law but does not truthfully reflect the immense expanse of relevant academic literature written in Chinese, Korean, and Japanese, which unless translated, remain inaccessible to the rest of the English-speaking world. There are reference works, mostly textbooks and monographs, which cover general aspects of public international law. These reference materials are used as textbooks at universities as introductory source books in international law in each of the countries. They are written by eminent, respected and recognized international lawyers, scholars, and jurists from each of the countries.

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