You may, of late, have encountered a certain term with increasing frequency: recent years have seen a sharp spike in news coverage of “international law”. For most of us, however, the term unfortunately evokes little. This volume is intended to make international law more palpable and familiar.
Take a glance at the table of contents. If it seems a parade of keywords from the news, this is intentional. From the news stories of recent years, we have selected topics particularly relevant to Japan. The keywords and news items may ring a bell, but most of us perhaps have little idea how they are related to international law. Our objective is to make this connection plain.
A knowledge of international law makes a great deal comprehensible that would otherwise be opaque in contemporary problems of world affairs, and so clarifies the demands upon Japan posed by such global developments. International law is simply a body of standards generally accepted throughout the international community. Without a knowledge of what international law entails, we can hardly hope to address world affairs in a manner consistent with such standards.
Of that you are probably already aware. But short of taking up a ponderous textbook of international law, how is one to acquire the necessary perspective? How is the product of a specialized expertise to be made readily comprehensible? This volume is born of our struggle with these questions.
With this problem in mind, we take up a number of news topics of recent years that intimately draw Japan and international law together, interpreting the issues involved against the background of international law and drawing out a way of thinking through possible resolutions or future development of those issues. In so doing, we hope to help Japanese readers to sense how immediate and powerful a presence international law is for them and how an understanding of international law can clarify contemporary events; and, further, to enable readers to understand and discuss events from an international law perspective.
Without sacrificing accuracy or exactness (the contributors to this volume are all, decidedly, scholars of international law), we have tried to write as simply and as clearly as possible. It is not organized as a textbook, and should not read like one. It is intended to be intellectually stimulating. There is, moreover, no need to read the pieces in the order presented; we invite you to dive into whichever of them first attracts your interest.
We will be gratified if in reading this book you find a renewed appreciation of international law’s importance for international affairs and retain an interest in the subject.
(Written by MORI Tadashi, Professor, Graduate Schools for Law and Politics / 2018)