Japan’s dangerous actionsJapanese lawmakers are dangerously raising the stakes by passing a resolution condemning Lee Myung-bak’s recent visit to the Dokdo islets and demand for an apology from the Japanese emperor. The resolution was jointly submitted to the lower house of the National Diet by the ruling Democratic Party of Japan and the main opposition Liberal Democratic Party. The resolution demands stronger actions from the Japanese government to make Korea halt its “illegal occupation” of Takeshima, the Japanese name for Korea’s easternmost islets.
Rep. Yasumasa Shigeno of the Social Democratic Party opposed the “provocative” resolution “unfit for parliament.” He also pointed out that no good would come out of an emotional fight between the two countries. The Japanese parliament has gone too far in irking its neighboring country even in the eyes of its own lawmakers. This is the second time the Japanese legislature has adopted a resolution on the disputed islands since 1953. The actions are largely aimed at drawing domestic support ahead of the elections in October and turning international opinion in its favor.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, who is on the verge of losing power, is at the head of the negative campaign against Korea. By appearing assertive on territorial claims, Noda, with an approval rating hovering around a dismal 10 percent, hopes to muster public support and retain power after the election. Noda has been behind harsh rhetoric against Seoul almost daily, bluntly demanding his Korean counterpart apologize for his comments.
When the Korean Embassy in Tokyo tried to return a letter from the Japanese government that requested bringing the Dokdo issue to International Court of Justice, officials acted like children by locking the entrance to the Foreign Ministry to prevent Korean diplomats and journalists from entering. When the letter was returned by mail, Tokyo jumped at the “diplomatic impropriety” and threatened to respond strongly against the move.
But it was Japan that first acted insensible by disclosing the letter with inappropriate and unacceptable demands. With all the hoopla, Japanese politicians are pushing bilateral ties to the edge. The resolution urged the Korean government and people to act wisely on the issue, saying Korea remains an important neighbor. We’d like to return the same words to the Japanese. But their actions are clearly keeping us from doing so.