News / Asia

Japan Increases Rhetoric Against S. Korea Over Island Dispute

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda speaks during a press conference at his official residence in Tokyo,  August 24, 2012.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda speaks during a press conference at his official residence in Tokyo, August 24, 2012.
TOKYO — Japan's top government officials and lawmakers are continuing to turn up the heat on two neighboring countries with claims on islands that Japan considers its own.

While calling on South Korea to respond to the territorial dispute in a wise and cautious manner, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's remarks at a Tokyo news conference Friday evening are likely to do little to ease rising diplomatic tensions with both Seoul and Beijing.

Noda tells reporters Japan will strengthen measures to secure its surrounding waters.

In a tough 10 minute opening statement, the Japanese prime minister asserted his country's territorial claims noting while it may be 61st in land size Japan's expansive maritime waters make it the world's sixth biggest sea power. When the depths of those waters are also taken into consideration, Noda asserts, Japan is number four.

Such boasts from a Japanese leader have been rare since the country's unconditional surrender in 1945. The defeat brought to an end the Pacific War and instantly eradicated Japan's half-century of brutal colonial expansionism.

Hours before Noda's news conference, South Korea lodged a formal diplomatic protest with Japan after both the prime minister and the foreign minister characterized South Korea's control of a disputed small island territory as an “illegal occupation”

South Korea's protest calls “unjustified” the Japanese claim to rocks nearly equidistant between the Korean peninsula and Japan's main island of Honshu.

Known internationally as the Liancourt Rocks, they cover a total area of less than one-fifth of a square kilometer. South Korea calls the territory Dokdo while the Japanese also claim them under the name of Takeshima.

An unprecedented August 10th visit to one of the rocks by South Korean President Lee Myung-bak angered Japanese.

Tensions Affect Diplomacy, Economics

South Korea's president has also raised Japanese emotions by using what the Japanese perceive as course language directed at Emperor Akihito.

Lee, earlier this month, said it would not be possible for the Japanese monarch to visit South Korea unless he offers a heartfelt apology for Japan's past colonization of the Korean peninsula. The South Korean president contended that a repeat of the Emperor's 1990 expression of “deepest regrets” would not be adequate.

The escalation of domestic tensions is spilling into economic relations, as well.

Japanese finance minister Jun Azumi acknowledges the tensions are influencing decisions on whether Tokyo will extend a currency swap arrangement with Seoul as well as Japanese purchases of South Korean government debt.

In a symbolic but rare action, Japan's parliament Friday adopted resolutions calling South Korea's recent actions and a successful landing by Chinese activists on a Japanese-held island “extremely regrettable.”

The Japan-China feud involves small islands in the East China Sea known as Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in Chinese.

In response to the landing by Hong Kong-based activists, the right-wing governor of Tokyo, Shintaro Ishihara, is requesting permission for the metropolitan government to sail to the islands. Past requests have been refused by the central government but Prime Minister Noda says no decision has yet been made on whether the Tokyo request will be granted.

Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

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Comment Sorting
by: tmt from: Japan
August 25, 2012 7:35 AM
Syngman Rhee Line was obviously illegal.

by: Samurai from: Japan
August 24, 2012 11:14 AM
Both Korea and Japan have a pride. Korean people regard the annexation by Japan as dishonor. Japanese people regard President Lee's landing on the Japan's inherent territory "Takeshima" as insult and his terms to his Imperial Majesty as rudeness (corresponding to a so-called "High-Crime"). The reason why Japan was compelled to annex Korea is unambiguous to the people who have learned the truthful world history, i.e., Russia's go-southward policy. In Korea at that time, Korean imperial family members were exclusively engaged in struggle for power, and it was obvious that if that situation had been left as it was, Russia's big appetite would have swallowed Korea. If Korea had been swallowed by Russia, Japan also would have been occupied by Russia. Therefore, Japan involuntarily annexed Korea after consulting with the world community (especially, US and G.B,). Still now, Koreans hold grudge against the annexation by Japan. They should realize that they are happy because not being under the rule of Russia. Holding persisting grudge is one of the conspicuous characteristics of Koreans; however holding grudge does not lead to "Global Korea". It is a blessed relief that most of intelligent Korean people appreciate the annexation by Japan in a calm manner. Both nations should not be in a cat-and-dog relation but be aware of who is real enemy of both countries.
In Response

by: tmt from: Japan
August 25, 2012 7:24 PM
>Jonathan Huang

Syngman Rhee line was illegal.
but most of all the south korean do not know on this.
because south korean gov have been distorting history.

GHQ was going to burn the shrine.
but they didnt.
what do you think about ?
In Response

by: Jonathan Huang from: canada
August 25, 2012 12:31 AM
Thank yuo Samurai from Japan, you are the very evident to show evil Japanese fake history teaching. And now Japan is still worshipping those war criminals in a shrine even International court judged those were war criminals but Japan doesnt admit it. It is exactly why Korean and Chinese hate Japan.
In Response

by: Westmau from: US
August 24, 2012 10:25 PM
Who is now the real enemy of both South Korea and Japan then?

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