2012年08月11日

韓国の李大統領の竹島上陸について書きました

韓国の李大統領の竹島の上陸計画。9日夜から10日未明にかけて報道で明るみになり、10日の昼間に遂行された。これを受け、アジアタイムズとジェーンズ・ディフェンス・ウィークリーの両方に記事を書いた。先日の日中関係の記事に続き、再びアジアタイムズのトップ記事になっていた。慶応大名誉教授の小此木政夫先生、韓国の延世大の武貞秀士先生にコメントをいただきました。いつも取材に応じていただきまして、ありがとうございます。小此木先生いわく、今、問われているのは日韓基本条約が結ばれた1965年の「日韓の1965年体制」。竹島の帰属問題も、従軍慰安婦や徴用工の補償問題も、当時、あいまいにしたり、棚上げにしたりしていた問題が今、一気に噴き出しているとの指摘をされていた。今回の李大統領の竹島上陸で、日韓関係は冬の時代に入りつつあるようだ。

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Lee puts Japan-Korea ties on the rocks

The timing of South Korean President Lee Myung-bak's visit on Friday to islets disputed with Japan - days before the South marks its 1945 liberation from Japanese occupation - suggests he plans to inflame nationalist sentiment to distract from claims his government has run out of steam. For Tokyo, it now faces another territorial challenge alongside Russian and Chinese claims, as neighbors capitalize on its weakening regional clout. - Kosuke Takahashi (Aug 10, '12)

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Lee puts Japan-Korea relations on the rocks
By Kosuke Takahashi

TOKYO - August 10, 2012 will be long remembered in the history of Japan-Korea relations as a day that laid the seeds for future calamity.

Despite strong demands from Tokyo to cancel his plans, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak on Friday made an unprecedented visit to disputed islets in the Sea of Japan called Dokdo by Koreans and Takeshima by the Japanese.

The first such trip by a South Korean president to the islands, this will send already-chilly Japan-South Korean relations to their lowest point in decades. Repercussions will be felt not only in Seoul and Tokyo, but also Beijing, Washington and Pyongyang, likely impacting on a united front the US planned to build against China's naval expansion and North Korea's nuclear ambitions.

Japan has summoned South Korea's ambassador to protest against the visit, a Kyodo news agency report said. Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba had already said any such visit "would have a great impact on Japan-South Korea relations" and that Japan would "have to respond firmly".

South Korea's presidential office said the purpose of Lee's visit to the area was partly to confirm how the environment on nearby Ulleungdo Island was being protected. Lee's ministers of environment and culture accompanied him. It seems Lee is stressing this purpose of environmental research, perhaps to appease Tokyo.

His visit came ahead of August 15, when Korea will mark its liberation in 1945 from Japanese rule. Korean nationalism and patriotism always rise to the fore at this time.

It seems that Lee, already seen by many as lame-duck ahead of the presidential election in December, aims to recover his and his party's place in political power by fanning ethnic sentiment.

He also may want to distract the public from corruption scandals involving his elder brother and mentor, Lee Sang-deuk, 76, and his former aides, who were arrested on bribery charges last month. Lee was forced to apologize to the public on national television for the scandals.

"The lame-duck Lee administration in the last year is trying to make Japan into a scapegoat," Masao Okonogi, emeritus professor at Keio University in Tokyo and a noted expert on the affairs of the Korean Peninsula, told Asia Times Online on Friday. "In South Korea, no media can criticize such popularism openly, as long as the target is Japan."

Hideshi Takesada, a professor at Yonsei University of South Korea, echoed Okonogi's views. "Lee has become a lame duck faster than previous [Korean] presidents. The damage of the bribery scandals is also huge. To recover public support for him, he needs to take a hard-line stance toward Japan, which is a popular thing in both ruling and opposition parties as well as among both conservatives and liberalists."

As if reflecting growing anti-Korean feelings, on the Internet young Japanese even been claiming that Lee is visiting the disputed islands to provoke racial resentment as both nations face each other in bronze medal volleyball and soccer matches at the 2012 London Olympic Games.

Bilateral relations remain strained over historical issues, especially the unresolved issue of former "comfort women", who were mobilized, or often coerced, as sex slaves during Japan's Asia-Pacific War (1930-1945).

Although Seoul has repeatedly demanded the Japanese government compensate the women, Tokyo has refused to do so, saying it has no legal obligation to compensate war victims, including those forced to become laborers and comfort women.

Moreover, Japan's 2012 Defence White Paper, published by the Japanese Ministry of Defense on July 31, explicitly mentioned that the disputed islands were Japan's "inherent territory", prompting a strong South Korean protest. For Seoul, the islands are not only a subject of territorial dispute but also a legacy of Japan's brutal 1910-1945 colonial occupation. All of these factors have put Tokyo and Seoul on a collision course.

South Korea has had a permanent presence on the Dokdo islands since 1954, but Japan has never renounced its claim over the territory, which it incorporated in 1905. Both countries point to historical records dating back several centuries to support their cases.

This is not the only territorial dispute faced by Japan. To the south, it is engaged in a sovereignty dispute over the Senkaku Islands (known in China as the Diaoyu Islands) and competing development of offshore gas fields in the East China Sea. In the north, it has the thorny issue of the Russian-held Northern Territories, known in Russia as the Southern Kurils.

Russo-Japanese relations have also deteriorated as Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has repeatedly visited those disputed islands since November 2010, triggering fierce protests from Tokyo. "South Korean President Lee may have taken a cue from Medvedev's visit to Northern Territories," Okonogi said.

Japan's neighbors appear to be taking advantage of the country's weakening political and economic muscle

"Japan is looked down on by China, so South Korea thinks it not necessary to make a compromise with Japan," Takesada said. "This is the centerpiece of Seoul's stance toward Japan. Since China's influence over South Korea's economy is growing, people are increasingly thinking that as long as Seoul maintains good relations with Beijing, the nation will not have any difficulties."

In Tokyo, experts say South Korea is hoping Japan will take on the dangerous role of having to stand up to China, while Seoul itself pursues good terms with Beijing.

Kosuke Takahashi is a Tokyo-based Japanese journalist. His twitter is @TakahashiKosuke

(Copyright 2012 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)
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