‘Ali Baba’s Cave’: The Sea of Okhotsk’s Contentious Triangle

John R. Haines

January 2015


Amidst international furor over its annexation of Crimea, Russia quietly acquired a far more lucrative territory through different means: in March, the United Nations recognized Russia's claim to the resource-rich “Peanut Hole” in the center of the Sea of Okhotsk. This strategically and economically important body of water—a “real Ali Baba's cave” of untapped oil and gas reserves—lies within a contentious triangle formed by eastern Russia and northern Japan. Securing the Okhotsk's legal status as an internal sea goes far to advancing Russian claims in the Arctic, and bolsters Russia's bargaining position over four disputed Kuril islands which Japan callsits “Northern Territories.”