Voices of reason drowned outA group of nearly 1,300 Japanese intellectuals, including Nobel Prize laureate Kenzaburo Oe, sponsored a statement calling for an end to the hysterical reactions and emotive spat over territorial claims brewing among Korea, China and Japan. They said they oppose “any sort of physical force” and demand a return to peaceful diplomatic means to settle territorial disputes. The statement also urged the governments and media of the three countries to take responsibility for taming nationalistic fever.
They pointed out that the problems over Korea’s Dokdo islets - called Takeshima in Japan - and the Diaoyu, or Senkaku Islands - claimed by China, Taiwan and Japan - hark back to Japan’s imperialistic excesses and military aggression. Japan claimed control of the uninhabited islands at a time when Korea and China were weak and could not issue effective protests through diplomatic means. Their statement drew attention to a manifesto drawn up by Korean and Japanese intellectuals in 2010 declaring Japan’s forced annexation of the Korean Peninsula in 1910 as illegal.
There are far more issues at stake beyond territorial disputes involving the three nations, however, and losing one’s head due to nationalistic sentiment is akin to “getting drunk on cheap sake,” famous writer Haruki Murakami wrote in Japan’s Asahi Shimbun on Friday. All that’s left at dawn is a “bad headache,” he added.
He also pointed to the catastrophic results of military aggression as pursued by Hitler in a blind rush to reclaim territories lost in World War I. Japanese politicians should pay heed to the stern warnings from intellectuals.
Yet none of the three countries shows any intent of backing down. Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, speaking at a news conference in New York on the sidelines of the recent United Nations General Assembly, vowed that Tokyo will not compromise on its territorial issues. China angrily lashed out at the “dirty diplomatic play” by Japanese politicians. Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan also issued strongly-worded criticism against Japanese politicians for their lack of penitence regarding their wartime excesses, warning that the Korean people would take Japan’s claim to Dokdo as another attempt to invade their country. At this rate, there is no end in sight for the regional spat. If the three countries, all of which await key power shifts later this year, do not step back from the brink, we could see hostilities escalate far beyond the exchange of water canon bursts between Japanese and Taiwanese Coast Guard vessels
Top executives as well as government officials and politicians from the three countries should first tone down their rhetoric. Foreign Minister Kim in an interview with The Associated Press criticized Japanese politicians for failing to educate people correctly on the wartime and colonial excesses. Politicians should listen to these voices of reason.