Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

Japan Should Steer Clear of the Historic Issue in the Territorial Dispute Over Takeshima
NISHIKAWA Megumi  / Journalist

September 5, 2012
For Japan, the key to the Takeshima (Korean name: Dokdo) issue lies in keeping it separate from the issue of historic significance. It is important for Japan to appeal to the international community regarding the legitimacy of its claim strictly on the basis of hard facts and international law.

The case being made by the Japanese government is as follows. Even during the Closed Door policy of the Edo period, travel to Takeshima was not prohibited. In 1905, the Cabinet decided to incorporate the island into Shimane Prefecture. Under the 1951 San Francisco Peace Treaty that restored its post-WWII independence, Japan was to renounce its claim to "Korea, including the islands of Quelpart (Jejudo), Port Hamilton (Geomundo) and Dagelet (Ulleungdo)." Takeshima was not included in the article. Before the treaty was signed, South Korea requested the addition of Takeshima and was rebuffed by the United States on the grounds that the island had never been treated as part of Korean territory. Unsatisfied, South Korea unilaterally designated the "Syngman Rhee Line"in 1952 and began its illegal occupation of Takeshima. As such, Japan's claim is based on facts and international law.

Meanwhile for South Korea, Dokdo is nothing but an issue concerning historic significance. 1905 was the year it became a Japanese protectorate, and South Korea claims that Takeshima was unjustly incorporated into Shimane Prefecture while Korea was stripped of its diplomatic authority, which makes the move invalid under international law. The incorporation led to Japan's annexation of the country in 1910, and for South Korea the incident is the very symbol of colonial rule.

Japan is determined to resolve the issue based on the facts and international law. South Korea insists on adopting a historic perspective. Neither side is likely to compromise, so Japan must go about appealing its legitimacy in its own way.

What concerns me is that some conservative politicians – perhaps out of their pent-up resentment against South Korea - have begun to call for a revision of Japan's official statement regarding the "Comfort Women" issue made in 1993 by Kono Yohei, who was Cabinet Secretary in the administration of Prime Minister Miyazawa Kiichi. The statement recognized the element of coercion by saying that “in many cases they were recruited against their own will” in an act that "severely injured the honor and dignity of many women," and expressed the "sincere apologies and remorse" of the Japanese government. Former Prime Minister Abe Shinzo has commented on the necessity of reviewing this statement, while Matsubara Jin, Chairman of the National Security Commission, has also expressed his intentions of proposing a review by Cabinet members.

However, it would be unwise to deepen the rift with South Korea over this issue. By expanding bilateral confrontation to the Comfort Women issue would not only jolt the focus away from the territorial issue, but would play into the hands of South Korea, which is seeking to place Takeshima in the context of the issue of historic significance. Once the spotlight is turned on the Comfort Women, the international community is likely to adopt a historic perspective and Japan will undoubtedly be placed on the defensive regarding its claim to legitimacy on the Takeshima issue, no matter how hard it appeals to the facts and international law. In fact, the South Korean Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministry has reportedly dispatched a directive to its diplomatic missions to emphasize the historic aspect to appeal their case on Dokdo to the international community. Japan must refrain from inflaming the situation by taking up the historic issue.

The writer is Expert Senior Writer on the Foreign News Desk at Mainichi Shimbun newspaper.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

西川 恵 / ジャーナリスト

2012年 9月 5日






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English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > Japan Should Steer Clear of the Historic Issue in the Territorial Dispute Over Takeshima