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Mar 30, 2005 7:58 pm

Bamboo v. Lonesome

Japan Focus has a"three-fer" this week on the Korean-Japanese dispute over a rock. Well, technically"islets" but it's just rocks about big enough for a large playground: What the Koreans call Tokdo (Lonesome Island) and the Japanese, less literally, call Takeshima (Bamboo Island) , has been a matter of territorial dispute for years, mostly because of the attendant fishing rights that come with the extension of territory. There's a nice short introduction with maps and two articles from the Japanese press. Both countries have issued competing commemorative stamps (both of which sold out in record time), activists in both countries are calling for boycotts, and diplomatic relations are at a recent low, even as the countries are moving towards NAFTA-style integration.

As Takahashi reports, Japan claimed the islands in 1905, around the time that it forced Korea to become a Japanese protectorate (annexation would come in 1910), and though Korea proclaimed the islands reclaimed after liberation in WWII, the specifics of control of the islands have been left unresolved by mutual agreement in every agreement signed between the two countries since; a temporary agreement in 1999 for joint control remains technically in force. The matter has been heating up since the early 1980s, with South Korea taking the strongest practical steps (declaring the islands a national park, for example) but rogue Japanese elements actually trying to occupy the rocks have kept the matter actively disputed.

Tokyo U Emeritus Historian WADA Haruki has been actively working for closer relations, including normalization of relations with North Korea, in East Asia for years, and points out that it is difficult to imagine this region stabilizing without settling the three major territorial disputes Japan is involved in. Takeshima/Tokdo, Daiyou/Senkaku (Japan v. China, Vietnam, Australia, Taiwan, etc) and Kurile/Sakhalin dispute with Russia. The first two have economic consequences: fertile fishing ground in the first case, and potentially valuable natural gas reserves in the second; the third one is more about honor and diplomatic technicalities than anything else.

Non Sequitur: According to a recent poll

...a generational divide emerges when Americans are asked whether they approve of the United States' decision to drop atomic bombs on Japan in 1945. Six in 10 Americans 65 and older approve of the use of the atomic bomb at the end of World War II, while six in 10 from 18 to 29 disapprove. Albert Kauzmann, a 57-year-old resident of Norcross, Ga., said using the bomb in 1945 ``was the best way they had of ending'' World War II. Overall, 47 percent of those surveyed approved of dropping the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki while 46 percent disapproved, according to the poll of 1,000 conducted by Ipsos-Public Affairs from March 21-23 with a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
I want to note that, if my math is correct, the 29-65 year olds were dead even on the question, and given the margin of error reported even the generational divide itself could be less than reported. No word on whether this represents a change from the past, whether people change their minds about these things as they grow older, or what we should do about it. The rest of the poll is about contemporary nuclear weapons issues, and is quite interesting for the disconnect between policy and popular preference....

[crossposted at Frog in a Well: Japan]

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Greg James Robinson - 3/31/2005

Jonathan is right that this poll furnishes a good example of how changes in polls can be easily twisted or overstated (I think of the New Yorker Cartoon of the newscaster saying "meaningless statistics are up 1.6% this month...). It is particularly a suspect enterprise to try to gauge people's reactions to what is called "the atomic bombing" of Japan. The attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were very different. I have always felt it ironic that much of the moral questioning is directed at the bombing of Hiroshima, about which one could at least make some moral case, simply because it was first. Meanwhile, there is scarcely any particular moral quesitoning about the bombing of Nagasaki, which was done before the United States had given due time to gauge the impact of the first bombing and of the Soviet invasion on Japan's willingness to surrender.

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