The president of the Japan Foundation, Kazuo Ogoura, had an editorial in the Japan Times today examining the current Northern Territories flare-up. Ogoura spent 40 years working at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 18 of which were in ambassadorial positions in Vietnam, South Korea and France.
Reported Russian military steps or such intentions with regard to the Northern Territories as well as the latest political moves that have practically ignored Japanese reactions seem to imply that the Russians want to seal the long-term diplomatic issue by means of tough semi-military or politico-economic measures and to pile up “established facts” that Japan will have to swallow.
This implies that, regardless of any Japanese countermeasures, such a Russian attitude is in itself bound to leave in the minds of the Japanese festering wounds in relation to Russia. It would be, so to speak, the equivalent of once more reopening and enlarging the historical scar left by the Soviet Union, namely the bad image created by Stalinism and authoritarian policies from which the Japanese public has not yet fully recovered. In other words, the Russian attitude with regard to the Northern Territories is a touchstone of Russian sincerity of departure from authoritarianism and commitment to democracy and rules of law.
One must remember that it was only through the democratization of the Russian political system and the departure from authoritarian rule that the territorial issue ceased to be an “issue of the past” and was officially put on the agenda of topics to be discussed and resolved between the two countries via peaceful measures based on law and justice.
The latest Russian actions over the Northern Territories, combined with the treatment of journalism and the somewhat opaque legal procedures, seem to reveal that there is much left to be desired in the Russian process of realizing a society based on democracy, social justice and human rights.
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