Editorial: Gov't must employ proactive diplomacy to influence international opinion
Tensions between Japan and China and South Korea, respectively, have yet to calm down. On the same day that anti-Japan protests took place across China, 10 Japanese landed on Uotsuri Island, the largest of the Senkaku Islands whose sovereignty is disputed by Japan and China. On Takeshima, a pair of islets claimed by both Japan and South Korea, there was an unveiling of a stone monument with President Lee Myung-bak's handwriting. The Japanese government is expected to step up its deliberations of its response to South Korea this week.
Japan's post-World War II territorial diplomacy -- including its dispute with Russia over the Northern Territories -- has suddenly become front and center.
During the age of imperialism, territorial conflicts were largely resolved through military might, but such methods are obviously not acceptable today in the 21st century, nor should they be. What becomes crucial, then, is diplomatic skill. We must hold talks to keep the emotional standoffs of the Japanese, Chinese, and South Korean public from reaching a point of no return, but that alone is not enough. The Japanese government must also make more effort to deliver its own messages to get international opinion on our side.
The government's view that the Senkaku Islands are controlled by Japan, and that there effectively is no "territorial dispute" is not mistaken. However, this does not mean that the government should sit back and stay mum about the issue. The Chinese government has taken to the media to argue all over the world their claim to the Senkaku Islands, and government officials have spoken out about their government's stand on various occasions. At this rate, Japan could find itself at a disadvantage in the international publicity war.
Japan must communicate to the world that the Senkaku Islands belong to Japan, based both on history and on international law. We must shift from a "silent" mode of diplomacy to one in which we assert ourselves.
Meanwhile, the Japanese government is seeking a ruling from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the Takeshima issue. However, is the world fully aware of how Japan has handled the issue of the Japanese military's "comfort women" sex slaves, an issue the South Korean government is linking with territorial rights over Takeshima? U.S. lawmakers once passed a resolution demanding that Japan apologize for wartime comfort women. This was a testament to the fact that not even the U.S. acknowledged that Japan had made efforts by establishing a fund to provide money in an expression of atonement, along with a letter of apology from the prime minister, to former comfort women.
A shake-up of ambassadorial posts, including the Japanese ambassador to the U.S., is a good opportunity to re-examine and re-establish the publicity activities of Japanese diplomatic missions abroad. The early replacement of civilian Japanese ambassador to China, Uichiro Niwa, is unavoidable, considering remarks he has made during his tenure. This does not mean, however, that politics has no use for the wisdom from the private sector. Rather, it is time for the entire nation, and not just politicians and diplomats, to seriously consider how diplomacy over territorial disputes should be conducted.
Educating younger generations about why the Senkakus, Takeshima, and the four islands of the Northern Territories are a part of Japan is also important. An accurate understanding of history will allow one to rationally counter others' arguments.
Let us elevate Japan's international position not by creating waves, but through quiet and proactive diplomacy.
August 21, 2012(Mainichi Japan)