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Japan Sea, opening history and mechanism: A synthesis

Abstract : The respective tectonic effects of back arc spreading and continental collision in Asia are considered either as two independent processes or as closely interrelated. Extrusion tectonics assumes that the opening of the South China Sea and the left-lateral motion along the Red River fault are geometrically linked in a pull-apart manner. This model is not accepted by several workers because the structural link between the two processes is not clearly demonstrated. In the case of the Japan Sea, we can show without ambiguity that back arc opening was controlled by large intracontinental strike-slip faults which can be easily understood as effects of the India-Asia collision far from the indenter. The Japan Sea opened in the early Miocene in a broad pull-apart zone between two major dextral strike-slip shear zones. The first one extends from north Sakhalin to central Japan along 2000 km, it has accommodated about 400 km of finite displacement. Deformation along it varies from dextral transpression in the north to dextral transtension in the south. The second is between Korea and SW Japan and has accommodated a smaller displacement of about 200 km. The extensional domain in between lies in the back arc region of Japan. Distributed stretching of the arc crust resulted in the formation of most of the Japan Sea, while localized oceanic spreading at the southern termination of the eastern transpressional shear zone shaped the Japan Basin. The first oceanic crust was formed in a small triangle based on the eastern shear zone, and spreading propagated westward inside the pull-apart region. Timing of oceanic crust formation, of formation of the dextral shear zones and of block rotation in between, as well as the internal structure of the basins and the geometry of deformation along the master shear zones are used to reconstruct the opening history. This evolution is discussed by comparison to other manifestations of the arc and back arc activity, such as the history of sedimentation and volcanism. The paper then suggests that the collision of India can have tectonic consequences as far north as Japan and Sakhalin and describes the geometrical relation of back arc opening there and diffuse extrusion.
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Laurent Jolivet, Kensaku Tamaki, Marc Fournier. Japan Sea, opening history and mechanism: A synthesis. Journal of Geophysical Research : Solid Earth, American Geophysical Union, 1994, 99 (B11), pp.22237-22259. ⟨10.1029/93JB03463⟩. ⟨insu-00726737⟩

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