New data on geology, geochemistry, and isotope systematics of lavas in the East Sikhote-Alin area, along with earlier published evidence for the Sea of Japan, provide insights into the dynamics of back-arc basins and their role in the tectonic and magmatic history of continental margins. Right-lateral strike-slip faulting, the key event in the Cenozoic history of East Sikhote-Alin, apparently had no relation with the subduction in post-Eocene time. At that time, the Late Cretaceous subduction ended and oceanic asthenosphere with Pacific-type MORB isotope signatures injected into the subcontinental mantle through slab windows. The Sea of Japan opening began in the Eocene with formation of small rift basins in the Tatar Strait, which accumulated coastal facies. During the main Miocene phase of activity, the zone affected by oceanic asthenosphere moved eastward, i.e., to the modern deepwater Sea of Japan. The effect of oceanic asthenosphere on the continental margin ended in the Late Miocene after the Sea of Japan had opened and new subduction initiated east of the Japan Islands.

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