Japan’s provocation backfiresThe Shinzo Abe cabinet has crossed a line in the issue concerning history textbooks regarding its territorial claim of Dokdo. As the repercussions from Abe’s controversial visit to the Yasukuni Shrine are still being felt, the Japanese government declared the islets in the East Sea as part of Japan’s territory in guidebooks on history education among middle and high schools.
The guidebooks serve as the standards for writing textbooks and teaching history to students. Though lacking legal binding force, the guidelines can hardly be shunned by publishing companies. According to the new directives, nine titles of Japanese textbooks are expected to portray Dokdo as Japanese territory in middle schools’ geography, history and social studies textbooks and high schools’ Japanese history textbooks from 2016.
Abe’s attempt to shake the current status of Dokdo constitutes a brazen provocation against our sovereignty over the islets. Japan will have to face the international community’s harsh criticism for this move to fuel the existing conflict in Northeast Asia by inciting nationalism among its people. The ramifications from the revised guidebooks would be immense as Tokyo now aims to perpetuate the territorial disputes by teaching young Japanese about its misled sovereignty over the islets. The content in the guidebooks is also stunning. A geography guidebook has described Dokdo as Japan’s territory, illegally seized by Korea. That’s totally preposterous. Dokdo is inarguably Korean territory - historically, geographically and in international law. If Japan’s argument is right, does that mean that Korean residents and the police on the islets are criminals?
The guidebooks also demand that teachers deal with the process of incorporating Dokdo into Japan - allegedly according to a legitimate procedure on international law. But Japan forcibly incorporated the islets in the process of depriving our diplomatic sovereignty in 1905. Just because the San Francisco Peace Treaty didn’t specify Dokdo as Korean territory doesn’t mean Japan has a right to the islets.
The Abe administration’s territorial claim has been elaborate. It opened a government homepage claiming Dokdo as its own and plans to dispatch a high-ranking official to an upcoming Dakeshima Day event in Shinema Prefecture. Abe’s effort to instill patriotism through territory education is an all-out war against its defeatist mentality. This shameless step will only backfire.
Our government must demonstrate a resolute yet calm attitude. We have been effectively controlling Dokdo. As the dispute will surely be prolonged, the government must meticulously prepare with phase-by-phase scenarios so as to prevent it from spreading to economic and cultural fields.