Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Forgotten incidents

Barry Petersen of CBS came over from Beijing the other day to do some reporting on the Japanese response to a certain country's missile tests (I will give you a hint--it wasn't India's).

Mr. Peterson's final report concluded with footage from the outlandish December 2001 shootout in between the patrol ships of the Kaijō Hoanchō and the North Korean "mystery ship" --the exchange that ended with the "mystery ship" taking a trip to the bottom of the East China Sea.

That ship, by the way, is purportedly now on public display at a specially built museum next to the front gate of the Coast Guard station in Yokohama.

I say purportedly because I somehow whenever I go to Yokohoma, I always end up doing the waterfront walk at dusk--well after the museum's closing time.

Anyway, the voiceover of the CBS report concluded with the following paragraph:

North Korea and Japan are longtime adversaries. Five years ago, a Japanese patrol boat traded machine gun fire with a North Korean ship, the first shots that Japan's military has fired in anger since the end of World War II.
Now this is not strictly correct. The patrol boats featured in the footage were Coast Guard, not Self Defense Forces. Including the Coast Guard in Japan's military is a mighty stretch.

But then, in 1999 the MSDF did fire warning shots (big ones) at two North Korean ships trying to slip into Japanese waters off Kanazawa.

So one could say that Mr. Petersen was right in a sense--only that he was talking over the wrong video clip.

But I have recently learned that even calling the 1999 warning shots "the first shots that Japan's military has fired in anger since the end of World War II" is not true.

Thanks to Hervé Couraye's wonderful L'alliance nippo-américaine à l'épreuve du 11 septembre 2001 I have learned of the August 1953 incident, when the MSDF had a serious exchange of gunfire with a Soviet spy boat trying to make landfall on the coast of Hokkaidō.

Don't even try to Google for the information about the incident in English--out pops a hopeless wilderness of unrelated junk.

Googling in Japanese brings a up a load of--surprise--posts and comments to ultraright blogs and electronic BBs.

But no serious articles or analyses.

Except among the uha faithful, the 1953 firefight seems a forgotten incident.

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