Thursday, September 06, 2012

No Man's Lands - A Thought

I attended a noon luncheon at the Foreign Correspondent's Club of Japan featuring presentations by Katsuhiko Togo, a renowned and controversial former Director-General of the Treaties Bureau (where only the absolutely brightest career diplomats serve) and Park Il, professor at Osaka City University.  Their presentations focused on the Dokdo/Takeshima dispute and possible ways the South Korean and Japanese governments can climb down from their current enervated excited states.

Among the proposals floated by Mr. Togo was a new general code of  conduct for all of the players in Japan's territorial disputes.  Insistence that no territorial dispute exists over such-and-such a disputed territory, thus preventing the two governments even having discussions over the territories, should be abandoned.  "There is no territorial dispute so we have nothing to talk about" is the attitude adopted by South Korea over Dokdo/Takeshima and Russia over the Southern Kuriles/Northern Territories.  It is the brick wall Japan's diplomats or politicians run into when they try to engage their counterparts in discussions over these islands.

This stance is also the one taken by Japan over the Senkakus.  Under Togo's proposal, Japan would abandon its insistence that the Senkakus are indisputably Japanese territory, allowing discussion with the Chinese, Taiwanese and Hong Kong governments over the status of the islands.

Such an approach would be both intellectually consistent and absolutely wrong.  Opening up the sovereignty over the Senkakus to discussion thows away one of Japan's ace cards.

The Senkakus are indisputably Japanese territory. We know this by inference.

How? Let us take a tour around the Pacific.

Name: Clipperton Island
Controlling State: France
Population: 0
Garrison soldiers: 0
Nearest inhabited land: Mexico

Name: Baker Island
Controlling State: U.S.A.
Population: 0
Garrison soldiers: 0
Nearest inhabited land: U.S.A., Australia

Name: Minamitorishima
Controlling State: Japan
Population: 0
Garrison soldiers: 0
Nearest inhabited land: Northern Marianas Islands, Wake Island (U.S.A.)

The sovereignty of none of these islands is contested. They are also not protected by standing forces, though a standby barracks was constructed on Minamitorishima in 2011.

Call me off my rocker -- but a sure way to indicate a lack of confidence over one's hold upon a Pacific island is to put soldiers on it or colonize it. By contrast, by leaving an island or a set of islands alone, allowing no inhabitants, unapproved visitors or soldiers on it or them, the more confidence you can exude that your claim is valid.

Why then put the Senkakus on a par with the heavily militarized Dokto/Takeshima, Southern Kuriles/Northern Territories, and the garrisoned islands of the Spratlys and the Paracels?

Later - Togo-sensei has published a written treatment of ideas regarding Japan's three major territorial disputes on the NBR website:

"Japan’s Territorial Problem: The Northern Territories, Takeshima, and the Senkaku Islands" (Link)

Later still - Someone has do a history of the Togo family, though it is difficult to imagine that Togo-sensei himself does not have already have a thick manuscript and the support documents in a fire-proof safe at home. If there were ever a "well, you do not see that every day" story, the saga of the Togo family is it.


Seth Jarrett said...

"from their current enervated states."

Shouldn't this be excited rather than enervated?

MTC said...

Seth Jarrett -

Wrong word, thank you.