Placating Fools in Japan

Printer-friendly version this the price Japan’s PM Naoto Kan has to pay to overhaul Japan’s entitlements programs and combat the conservative farming lobbies?

February 7th makes for an ironic date. It was chosen because on it was on this day in 1855 that Japan and Russia began friendly diplomatic relations, signing a treaty on commerce and navigation. Today’s newspaper ads point readers to an official website filled with photos of government officials and ordinary (or in some cases goofy-looking) citizens present placards that insist on the importance of “the northern territories” being returned to Japan. “We have to raise our voices and show our strong will to demand the return of the territories,” a sign implores. Thus the government signals its assent to those jingoistic sound trucks.


Japanese leaders are of two minds or more when it comes to the question of how to proceed, which may help explain their exuberantly toothless newspaper campaign. Yukio Hatoyama, the most recently toppled of Japan’s many former prime ministers and a native of nearby Hokkaido, urges an incremental approach, aimed at the initial retrieval of only two of the four disputed islands. Seiji Maehara, the foreign minister, scoffs at this. He is determined to continue pressing for the return of all four islands—and he will have the opportunity to do so when he makes his first official trip to Russia, on February 10th.

South Korea’s conservative Chosun Daily hasn’t failed to notice, either. Will Japanese nationalists demand Liancourt Rocks/Takeshima/Dokdo, too?

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Filed under: Business/Economy, East Asia, Russia, Subscriptions Tagged: dokdo, irredentism, japan, liancourt rocks, naoto kan, northern territories, seiji maehara, takeshima, the economist, yukio hatoyama


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