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Wednesday, 15 September 1971
Page: 1396


Mr Whitlam asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:

(1)   Which country is entitled to sovereignty over the Spratly Islands to which Japan renounced all right, title and claim in the San . Francisco Peace Treaty of 8th September 1951.

(2)   Which country is entitled to sovereignty over the Paracel Islands to which Japan renounced all right, title and claim in the treaty.

(3)   Which is the southernmost of the islands over which sovereignty passed to the Soviet Union under the terms of the treaty.

(4)   Which islands situated on China's continental shelf have been administered by the United States under the terms of the treaty.

(5)   What international instruments, to Australia's knowledge, have regulated or purported to regulate (a) the sovereignty over the aforementioned islands since the treaty and (b) the development of the resources of the islands and the waters and seabed adjacent to them.

(6)   Are any of the islands inhabited; if so, by whose nationals.


Mr N H Bowen (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

Notwithstanding extensive enquires overseas,it is not possible, for reasons that will appear below, to supply answers to the issues of law raised by several of the honourable member's questions. The position, however, is as follows:

(1)   and (2) By the Peace Treaty of 1951, Japan renounced all right, title and claim to the Spratly and Paracel Islands (among other territories), but the treaty did not determine the sovereignty of these islands, either as between the Allies or otherwise. It is understood that a number of states claim the Spratly Islands and the Paracels.

(3)   Sovereignty did not pass to the Soviet Union, by the terms of the treaty, in respect of any islands.

(4)   Under international law, an island has its own continental shelf. By Article 3 of the treaty, Japan concurred in the placing of the islands there mentioned (including the Ryukus under the United Nations trusteeship system, under United States administration.

(5)   In respect of the Spratly and Paracel Islands various unilateral declarations are understood to have been made, but so far as the Government is aware there is no international agreement regulating the matters concerned.

(6)   We do not know whether the Spratly and Paracel Islands have permanent inhabitants, but believe they do not. The nationality of permanent inhabitants, if any, would presumably depend on the question of sovereignty, as to which see the answer to questions (1) and (2) above. The nationality of temporary inhabitants would, of course, depend on factors other than their mere presence on the islands.







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