Simmering discontent between Japan and South Korea


The recent face-off between South Korea and Japan over a group of islands in the Sea of Japan may put in jeopardy the peace and security of not only Japan and South Korea but also that of entire Asia, unfortunately, in today’s world when geo-politics is moving toward the East.

With Friday's surprise visit of South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak to the disputed islands, known as Takeshima in Japanese and Dokdo in Korean, South Korea's decades-long territorial dispute with its former colonial ruler Japan over these bunch of isles has cropped up, forcing Japan - otherwise a peace-loving and highly enterprising nation - to obviously recall its ambassador in protest.

These disputed isles are spread over around less than 0.2 sq km in area and are surrounded by rich fishing grounds with likely large-scale deposits of natural gas. Although South Korea has maintained its claim since 1954, the dispute has marred the two countries' otherwise close cooperation, between their shared concerns over North Korea’s on-going missile and nuclear weapons program.

Lying almost midway between South Korea and Japan, the rocky volcanic outcrops has eco-strategic importance for both countries. Perhaps to outmaneuver Japan, the South Korean president solemnised his first-ever visit there disregarding Japan’s stern warnings that the visit would strain the already tense relations between them. Not only that, President Lee toured the main island and also shook hands with coast guard personnel as a South Korean flag fluttered in the breeze, claiming, “Dokodo is our territory. We must keep it under our close guard.” Perhaps, in a rare display of his command over the disputed area, the visiting South Korean leader posed for a photograph before a rock painted with the slogan “ROK (South Korean) territory.”

In fact, South Korea is preparing to build a naval base on its Uileung island just 87 kilometers away from the islands with a view to ensure quick deployment of its own warships as compared to that of Japan in the event of an eruption of any dispute between them. Once the naval base is ready, South Korean navy vessels could reach the disputed islands about 75 minutes faster than that of Japanese ships. Also, the presidential election in South Korea is due in December but though President Lee is constitutionally barred from a second term, his nationalist agenda will inevitably be carried ahead by his successor.

So far, Japan has reacted wisely as per canons of international law without taking recourse to any confrontational or aggressive postures against South Korea, much to the respite of the whole world. Against this backdrop, Japan’s strong protest and its recall of its ambassador from Seoul is not a good omen for their cordial relationship. It cannot help but encourage North Korea - already a potential threat like Iran because of its secret nuclear weapons program - to settle its scores with South Korea in the resulting melee.

Furthermore, the U.S. would also find it very difficult to intervene because, on the one hand it has to deal with a likely nuclear North Korea, and it also has to keep a fine balance between both of its allies in the Asia-Pacific region and keep a check on China's rising imperialist assertions in the region.

Since the 21st century is being declared as that of Asia, its progress and prosperity will eventually depend only on peaceful and cordial relations among its member nations.

© Japan Today

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Not a great article about a completely ridiculous spat between two allegedly friendly countries. So many of these disputes over uninhabited flyspecks in the oceans around Asia would be more easily resolved without the emotive nonsense of withdrawing ambassadors and issuing diplomatic warnings. Childish.

-2 ( +4 / -6 )

Japan started it, but the Korean response has been equally childish.

-6 ( +3 / -9 )

hatred of Japan keeps Korea motivated so fesity Korea is

Japan needs to figure out a way to get china and korea upset with each other

-6 ( +0 / -6 )

Rational resolution of differences with Korea is impossible knowing their historical conjecture and temperament. We just have to learn to live with the differences as they are. Another way is to approach UN to change the ICJ rules so that "Compulsory" jurisdiction can be made without both parties having agreed to submit to its decision

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Rational resolution of differences with Korea is impossible knowing their historical conjecture and temperament.

No, the problem is that they both aren't trying. They're both too egocentric and too immature to make a move.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Japan needs to figure out a way to get china and korea upset with each other

I'm sure sneaky Ishihara will figure out a way to fan the flames to maximize tension. We could look forward to a 3 way shoot-out.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

President Lee has all the characteristics of a shameless demagogue, exploiting people's nationalistic sentiments when there is no real logic except to foment a sense of crisis where none existed before. With the exception of the late Kim Daejung, who at least stood by his principles, the ROK keeps electing corrupt losers who either get assassinated (Park); sentenced to prison (Chon, Roh No. 1) or committing suicide before they can be prosecuted (Roh No. 2). Watching the current Blue House buffoon, I figure he's headed for a crash as well. Over the past 120 years, hundreds of thousands of Chinese, Japanese, Russian and American soldiers have died because Korea couldn't settle its affairs without involving neighboring countries. (And then boo-hoo-hoo blamed those countries for intervening.) It looks like more conflict and suffering is almost a certainty.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Here's an idea: why not use the islands themselves as the border point, Western Isle becomes Korean and Eastern Isle becomes Japanese, then each country gets exactly 50% of the surrounding marine resources. This was the solution used by Canada and Greenland/Denmark in the Nares Strait.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

WOW to the comment just above!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

"each country gets exactly 50% of the surrounding marine resources"

That would never work, both countries want 100%, lol.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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