It’s 2018. Several fishing trawlers have landed a force of two hundred “activists” on the small Japanese island of Miyatajima*, several hundred kilometers southwest of Kyushu. Miyatajima is small, with a total area of about 100 square kilometers, and lightly populated, with a total Japanese population of about a thousand. Ownership of Miyatajima is contested by Big Red, which cites references to it in historical documents dating back several hundred years.

After subduing the local police department and demolishing the island’s radar site, the “activists” are in firm control of the island. The activists announce they are Miyatajima’s legitimate government and pledge their allegiance to Big Red. They make this claim based on references made to the island in historical documents from Big Red’s past.

The activists have occupied key government buildings and built up defenses to resist a counter-invasion. Highly disciplined, they have been respectful of civilians and have not taken hostages, only seizing food and transportation. Civilians are allowed to continue with their daily activities but are not allowed to leave the island.

The activists call themselves the Liberators of Miyatajima, and issue appeals to the state-controlled Big Red media, who are allowed onto the island. For the press they trot out several alleged Miyatajima residents, who loudly proclaim their support for the activists and their claim. (Oddly, many of these “residents” speak Japanese with an accent and are unfamiliar to other local residents.) Both the activists and Big Red deride any attempt to link the two as “arrogant” and “warmongering”.

Meanwhile, on the Internet, every newspaper providing coverage of the Miyatajima crisis is bombarded with letters to the editor supporting the activists. The comments section of blogs and newspapers worldwide–including Japan–are saturated with pro-activist comments denouncing Japan. Videos appear on YouTube expressing sympathy with the activists–by people claiming to be Japanese. Information, and disinformation, is spread via Twitter. The propaganda campaign is not only meant to set a David vs. Goliath context, but to sow disinformation and exaggerate every Japanese response in a negative way.

Now what does Japan do?

* Fictitious. As far as I know, there is no Miyatajima. It’s my grandmother’s name.
* “-jima” means island.

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A contributor and editor at the blog War Is Boring, Kyle Mizokami started Japan Security Watch in 2010 to further understand Japan's defenses and security policy.
Kyle Mizokami has 596 post(s) on Japan Security Watch