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A territorial dispute is a disagreement over the possession/control of land between two or more territorial entities or over the possession or control of land by a new state and occupying power after it has conquered the land from a former state no longer currently recognized by the new state.
Context and definitions
Territorial disputes are often related to the possession of natural resources such as rivers, fertile farmland, mineral or oil resources although the disputes can also be driven by culture, religion and ethnic nationalism. Territorial disputes result often from vague and unclear language in a treaty that set up the original boundary.
Territorial disputes are a major cause of wars and terrorism as states often try to assert their sovereignty over a territory through invasion, and non-state entities try to influence the actions of politicians through terrorism. International law does not support the use of force by one state to annex the territory of another state. The UN Charter says: "All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations."
- The term border dispute (or border conflict) applies only to cases where a limit territory bordering more than one state (including an enclave in one state such as Nagorno Karabakh) is claimed by two or more, not the very existence of a whole state challenged (such as the Republic of China and People's Republic of China relationship or the South Korea and North Korea relationship).
- Occupied territories in general are regions distinct from the recognized territory of a sovereign state but which it controls, especially with military forces. Even though a long-term occupation is generally maintained as a means to act upon a territorial claim, this is not a prerequisite as occupation may also be strategic (such as creating a buffer zone or a preventive move to prevent a rival power obtaining control) or a means of coercion (such as a punishment, to impose some internal measures or for use as a bargaining chip).
- The term irredentism applies to those border disputes and other territorial claims that one party justifies on the basis of former cultural or ethnic attachment.
Sources and references
- WorldStatesman – click on any state for the listing (after the chronological lists of statesmen) of Territorial Disputes it is party to
- Territorial disputes in CIA World Factbook
- USState Department/ FloridaStateUniversity International Border Studies
- Lectures by Malcolm Shaw entitled The International Legal Principles Relating to Territorial Disputes: The Acquisition of Title to Territory and Settling Territorial Disputes in the Lecture Series of the United Nations Audiovisual Library of International Law