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Japan continues to play nationalist card against Russia

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By Lee Jay Walker

It is sometimes difficult to understand Japan’s stance toward Russia given the reality that American forces are based in various parts of Japan. Therefore, why is the nationalist card being turned on and off when it suits Tokyo?

Japanese Foreign Minister Takeaki Matsumoto protested last week after Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov visited two of the four Russian-held disputed islands off Japan’s northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido. The islands are referred to as the Southern Kurils in Russia and the Northern Territories in Japan.

Matsumoto stated that it (the visit) “runs counter to Japan’s basic position and hurts the feelings of Japanese people.”

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano also weighed in by stating that recent visits to the isles by Russian ministers have “seriously damaged the feelings of our people. I believe Russia will not gain anything from them.”

However, prior to the Meiji Restoration of 1868, neither Okinawa (Ryukyu) nor Hokkaido belonged to Japan. The people of Okinawa have mainly lost their indigenous language, while the Ainu people are also in danger of losing their culture and ethnicity.

Therefore, if neither Okinawa nor Hokkaido, and the Southern Kurils, belonged to Japan before the Meiji Restoration, then how ingrained is Japanese culture to the disputed region and how can Japan claim that they have a natural right to somewhere which was always independent of Japan until recent history? The same applies to Russia because neither nation in history has controlled the Southern Kurils (Northern Territories) for long periods of time.

In my view, neither Japan nor Russia have a legal right to the disputed isles when applied to history because this region was independent and the indigenous people were neither Japanese or Russian.

The Russian Federation came into being after the demise of the Soviet Union but this nation state maintains the same legacy and this applies to events during World War II. Therefore, while the Russians may offer parts of the disputed region in the future, it is most unlikely that this will ever apply to Sakhalin, for example, because of geopolitical factors and natural resources.

Recently, Russia increased its military power in the region. However, this fact is not aimed at Japan because Russia’s main concern is the United States and protecting this strategic region from outside powers.

Pavel Felgenhauer, a Russian journalist, commented in The James Foundation that “Japan is not a first-class priority in Russian politics or strategic planning. The strategic build-up in the Kurils and of the Pacific Fleet capabilities may not be aimed at Japan or China per se, but the U..S – Russia’s true present number one strategic concern.”

Russia is blessed with vast resources of gas, oil and other natural resources and it is abundantly clear that Japan is over-reliant on the Middle East for its energy supplies.

Following the March 11 disaster in Japan, Russia made it clear to Japan that it was willing to help Japan with its energy needs, and the offer still stands.

A face-saving deal over these relatively unimportant isles is in Japan’s interest and this is the only offer that Tokyo is likely to get from Moscow. Japan should stop playing the nationalist card because Russia could enhance Japan’s national security in the field of energy. Not only that, Russia also pulls many strings in resource-rich Central Asia.

If Japan wants a diverse energy policy and friendly relations in a region of few friends, then Tokyo would be wise to focus on developing relations with Russia.

© Modern Tokyo Times

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

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So let me see if I've got this right:

A nation that hosts US forces is not allowed to display any form of nationalism, nations that did not exist in their current state 150 years ago are not allowed to engage in territorial disputes, and the possibility of monetary gain should outweigh all other considerations.

Good luck with that.

You might try a less selective reading of history for your next screed.

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regardless of rational arguements, japan has invested too much emotionally in this issue to ever let it go (the right wing goons would never stand for it)... also, japan would be very wary about dealing with russia on the issue of energy after seeing the russians literally turn the gas taps off to one of their own states in the middle of winter when a dispute arose a few years ago... for all its protestations about US bases and military, the japanese will never leave the clammy embrace of the US

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hokkaidoguy. Try looking at it this way.

Japan needs to diversify her sources of energy and natural resouces. Russia can enable that to happen. This is a win win for both sides.

I agree that neither Russia or Japan have real claim to these islands. So let's change tracks and make them neutural economic zones with both Japanese and Russian support and development but with local rule.

I don't think anyone is saying Japan cannot be nationalistic. But one should question whether it makes sense for Japan to be nationalistic on this topic. Especially when there are other benefits to be gained by looking at other options.

Finally, often you sound quite anti-American in your posts. But the reality this article spells out is undeniable.

A. Japan is dependent upon US protection against potential bullies and threats in the region. You can change this but at what cost to your economy and to the young people of Japan?

B. China is the real worry in the region, far more so than Russia. The US is your counterweight against Chinese aggression. Call your friendship with the US a form of insurance policy.

You can go on all day about how the US is a problem for you, but the bottom line is, they are a benefactor that does considerable good for Japan.

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hokkaidoguy. Try looking at it this way. Japan needs to diversify her sources of energy and natural resouces. Russia can enable that to happen. This is a win win for both sides.

True, but largely irrelevant. Japan and Russia have been engaged in joint development of energy and national resources since the Soviet days.

You (and the OP) seem to be under the impression that the dispute is a barrier to progress on this front, despite the facts: these initiatives, both private and state backed, have been increasing year on year since the 1980s. There is no reason to assume that they will magically increase further if the dispute is abandoned, nor is there reason to assume that they have been hindered so far.

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Let's just get the USA out of Japan, or at least lessen its involvement in the economy. Japan must protect itself and forget about these islands. Japan needs to concentrate on its recession by bolstering its economy. A few worthless piles of rock is not going to make a difference in Japan's security or future. If Japan takes ownership of its economy and protection, there will be no need for USA presence.

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Not sure who the “Modern Tokyo Times” is, but they have a rather narrow view of Japan’s strategic interest…..

Japan acquiesces to Russia and gives up claim to the four Northern territories. Within seconds of that happening, South Korea is demanding that Japan withdraw all claims to “Dokto”, and is preparing its case for the World Court, citing Russia as precedent.

China meanwhile sails a large Naval Surface Action Group into the Senkakus and says that it is re-claiming its possessions, as per the Russians. They station troops on the main islands and dare Japan to try to remove them.

And all the fishing, mineral, natural gas, oil and other resources that Japan once had claim to in these areas are now gone.

Maybe the real owners of the Modern Tokyo Times reside in Moscow, Seoul and Bejing……

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One other thing;

Russia is blessed with vast resources of gas, oil and other natural resources and it is abundantly clear that Japan is over-reliant on the Middle East for its energy supplies.

And Russia, has, through its actions, proven that it would never play politics with its energy resources - just ask the Ukranians, Georgians and Europeans......

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lincolnman,

Just out of curiosity can you please explain to me how Japan came about losing the Northern territories. Maybe this little fact should be remembered whenever Japanese nationalism rears its ugly little head again.

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"Let's just get the USA out of Japan, or at least lessen its involvement in the economy. Japan must protect itself and forget about these islands."

Are you really prepared for that? How will you pay for it? Who, exactly, are you planning to have serve in your new military? Do you really think the youth of Japan are prepared to give up their relatively spoiled existences to be military people? Show me some evidence that this will work.

Even if it does, Japan will then have to turn considerable money to the development of her military including expensive R&D. With an impending labor shortage with the existing situation as Japan ages, where do you expect to get the people to do this work? How will you pay for it when you are already 180% of GDP in the red?

This kind of nationalism is senseless and idiotic since you must also drop your non-violent stance, a very valuable political position in the world, and move towards an Asia Pacific arms race.

What is astonishing about the nationalists in Japan, is their complete lack of grasp of economic realities associated with militarizing Japan to defend herself. Especially when it is not necessary as the beneficial relationship with the US does great good economically and politically for Japan.

So, where is your rationale and your answer to these issues?

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@linkolnman

Russia's European gas turn-off was due to underpayment and theft. The political element was that these countries originally were given subsidised rates which were withdrawn, now they have to pay the market price.

Like the rest of the world, Russia's objective in selling commodities is to raise revenue. They are no more (or less) likely to use this as a political tool than any other supplier.

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The article states that in history, the region does not belong to any nation state.

It does not appear to be pro-Russia or pro-Japan; just based on realism.

It is false for Japanese politicians to claim that "Japanese nationals are hurt" because Hokkaido did not even belong to Japan until after the Meiji period.

Also, if you asked the majority of people in places like Tokyo then they probably do not care

Okinawa, Hokkaido, and Southern Kurils/Northern Territories are not part and parcel of Japan. These areas were taken from the indigenous people; yes, just like the Russian Empire took vast areas.

However, ethnicity and cultural rights are strong in the Russian Federation but in Japan the Okinawans are losing their linguistic and cultural ways.

It is better for Japan to have a diverse energy policy and a neighbor which is friendly; rather than complaining over issues which will not be changed.

Putin stated that a face saving deal would be done for Japan whereby small areas would be given to Japan on the grounds "of a deal" and not based on historical rights.

The Russian Federation is much more concerned about NATO, EU, Central Asia, the Caucasus, and relations with China. Japan is not so high on the agenda.

Either Japan adopts a policy based on realism or Japanese leaders can keep on making false statements.

The only think that Koizumi did was to alienate Japan within Northeast Asia apart from Taiwan.

Issues like this, and Yasukuni, is just clutching at straws and creating tensions.

Time for Japan to move on and focus on positives; for example Japan giving huge economic support to countless nations and being a highly developed nation in the field of technology and so forth.

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When are the Russians going to return what doesn't belong to them?

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I believe that if Japan refuse American umbrella with money and bases they stop worrying about vapros teretori to tomuzhe although Russia and the country is not moshnaya oznochyat that it had not lzya dialogue about the resources where I live in the center of Siberia resorsov much but we do not eat them ) Japan 5 years ago if not bent blunt policy is to own everything currently mined in the current teretorii Russian arms themselves Russian, China has already won so he makes the current ekspansiruet people rob them and all our forest and grass land pestetsidami for svaih ovoshey

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I believe, that so long as Japan politically and militarily continues to depend from USA, there is no hope for obtaining the Island from Russia. Because, what Russia may be (!) could give for little Japan, independent and friendly (!) country, it would not give for the hostile country and actually a dependent part of the powerful militant empire, striving for world dominance (what is USA in the eyes of Russia). Yes, I think, it is true, that Japan should first be independent, to want to be taken by Russia seriously as a country with the really own territory. May be the whole theater is just a political trick to get the attention of Japaneses away from US-bases problematic toward the Islands question with Russia. And yes, both for Japan's and Russia's future would be better to achieve really friendly relations. Under the friends every problem is to solve much more easier and naturally.

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The time is coming for Japan to step up beyond verbal rhetoric.

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noriyosan73 at 01:44 PM JST - 20th May. Let's just get the USA out of Japan, or at least lessen its involvement in the economy. Japan must protect itself and forget about these islands. Japan needs to concentrate on its recession by bolstering its economy. A few worthless piles of rock is not going to make a difference in Japan's security or future. If Japan takes ownership of its economy and protection, there will be no need for USA presence.

That is a great idea for U.S. military presence to leave Japan. This would save billions in taxpayer money for U.S. The cost for Japan in defense will increase by 10 percent a year for many decades. Let Japan deal China and other neighboring countries and pay their own way. When do you start?

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Konitiva all! I'm russian engeener-programmer, living in Russia, Saint-Petersburg. I'm sorry for my bad English.

2tkoind2 at 09:42 AM JST - 20th May USA is economic province of China. Now all world(Japan, China, EU, Russia) is credit of USA, but USA buy only Chinese products. Because really USA never will be conflict with China. Now Japan have only loss from USA: 1. cheap credit for USA 2. buy old equipment and not effective military technology. Now China can not attack to Japan, because China need Japanese technology. May be China will be attack of Japan only when Japan give all technology to China. As i know, now Japan is technology donor for China. Also attack of Japan is big economic risk for world reputation for China.

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2lincolnman at 02:29 PM JST - 20th May South Korea is not need big problem with Japan, because economics of Japan and South Korea is strong interdependent.

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2tkoind2 at 04:56 PM JST - 20th May Are you really prepared for that? How will you pay for it? Who, exactly, are you planning to have serve in your new military? I think that Russia can help to Japan with military R&D as so as early help to JAXA for first start in space. Result: minimization costs R&D and time.

Do you really think the youth of Japan are prepared to give up their relatively spoiled existences to be military people? Show me some evidence that this will work. Are you sure that American funny gay want death for Japan?

This kind of nationalism is senseless and idiotic since you must also drop your non-violent stance, a very valuable political position in the world, and move towards an Asia Pacific arms race. Really some month ago USA and South Korea was military exercise in Chinese economic zone no far from North Korea.

Especially when it is not necessary as the beneficial relationship with the US does great good economically and politically for Japan. hahaha! Why USA can not sell Japan to China?

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2lincolnman at 02:29 PM JST - 20th May And all the fishing, mineral, natural gas, oil and other resources that Japan once had claim to in these areas are now gone. This is not true. Our President Medvedev and Premier Putin was offer economic project to Japan Government for work on Northern Territories. But Japan Government was not interest for that. Russia have only two nonfreezable sea port: Murmansk and Vladivostok. Northern Territories is little gate in the Pacific Ocean. Because is very important for strategic security of Russia and very important for economic. If USA will attack Russia by atomic bomb, then our submarine must move to Pacific Ocean and revenge for us. Now USA is build National Missile Defence. It is mean that USA want repeat Hiroshima and Nagasaki for Russia. We are not undoubtedly. Don't wary, i sure that we will see WWIII. I think that China will have victory.

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