Senkaku Islands and Takeshima

Seagulls apparently comprise the majority of Takeshima/Dokdo's population

Seagulls apparently comprise the majority of Takeshima/Dokdo's population (Source: Juggle.com)

Shu Watanabe, a DPJ member of the Upper House – and owner of what has to be one of the worst politician’s site in the modern day, will become the party’s first lawmaker to celebrate ‘Takeshima Day’, a festival designed to emphasize Japan’s claim over the Liancourt Rocks – Takeshima to Japan, Dokdo to the Koreans.

He also plans to promote Japan’s claim over the Senkaku islands. The Senkakus, in the East China Sea, are subject to a territorial dispute between China and Japan. Last year the islands grew in political significance after a confrontation between the Japanese Coast Guard and a Chinese fisherman.

One of the disputed Senkaku Islands

One of the disputed Senkaku Islands (Source: EPA)

There was another incident in the Senkakus this week as a Chinese patrol boat, Yuzheng 201, encroached on Japanese-claimed waters. After being warned by the Coast Guard, the ship reported blasted back: “the Senkaku Islands are an integral part of Chinese territory. We are conducting legitimate operations.”

Northern Territories

Kunashir, one of the disputed Southern Kuril Islands

Kunashir, one of the disputed Southern Kuril Islands (Source: Reuters/Kyodo)

On Thursday, Russia invited Takayuki Koike, Japanese consul general in the Russian city of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, to an investment meeting being held on February 1st by the Sakhalin regional government, which administers the Southern Kuril Islands – known to the Japanese as the Northern Territories. Koike declined the invitation – perhaps in fear of losing his job like former Ambassador Masaharu Kono, who failed to predict Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s visit to the islands in October last year.

On a more positive note, however, Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara is planning a discuss the territorial issue with Russia on a three day visit in February ahead of Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s visit later this year.

Sentaku, a Japanese political magazine, published an editorial this month in which it suggested that Japan should exploit Russia’s growing suspicion of China. The Northern Territories remain Japan’s most important dispute, largely due to their having no control over the islands north of Hokkaido. The Japanese government is unlikely to consider the strategy proposed by Sentaku due to this possibly-unresolvable issue:

Unfortunately, not many in Japan’s political and diplomatic circles think in this way. Indeed, the Japanese government is so preoccupied with one issue — the return of the northern islands to Japan — that Tokyo does not appear to recognize such an opportunity.

For more information on the history of these territorial disputes, check out these posts at my old blog:
Desired Ground: Part One (Northern Territories), Part Two (Takeshima), and Part Three (Senkakus)
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A former contributor to World Intelligence (Japan Military Review), James Simpson joined Japan Security Watch in 2011, migrating with his blog Defending Japan. He has a Masters in Security Studies from Aberystwyth University and is currently living in Kawasaki, Japan. His primary interests include the so-called 'normalization' of Japanese security (i.e. militarization), and the political impact of the abduction issue with North Korea.
James Simpson has 254 post(s) on Japan Security Watch