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LinkAsia | Dec 11
In a crowded campaign season, the Liberal Democratic Party has separated itself from the pack in Japan with far right policies concerning security ...
China and Japan are both claiming ownership over a chain of islands that lies southwest of Okinawa and northeast of Taiwan. The Chinese call them Diaoyu, while the Japanese call them Senkaku. A controversial Japanese politician, Shintaro Ishihara, has inserted himself into the dispute. Our Tokyo contributor, Toshi Maeda, tells us more.
Known for his strong and nationalistic opinions, Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara once again stirred the pot during a trip to Washington earlier this month. At a right-wing think tank, Ishihara abruptly announced plans for the prefecture of Tokyo to purchase the Senkaku Islands, a tiny island chain located off the coast of southern Japan. He added that those plans were already in their final stages. China and Taiwan also claim ownership of the resource-rich islands, known in Chinese as the Diaoyu.
"What's wrong with the Japanese people defending their own territories?" he said during a speech at the Heritage Foundation, adding fuel to the already heated dispute.
Ishihara's announcement was immediately met by various opinions online, which go from high praise to cautious consideration. Very few Japanese seem to openly criticize the announcement by the charismatic governor, who, at age 79, still has much political clout. A poll on the Wall Street Journal Japan shows that more than 90 percent of readers agree with Ishihara's proposed action.
"I totally agree! Tokyo should manage the Senkaku Islands! And of cause I will donate!" This excited Twitter user said, referring to Ishihara's idea that the purchase of the islands can be funded partly by public donations.
Others agree with the proposal, but think the Japanese government, not the metro Tokyo, should do the purchase.
"I don't think it should be up to Tokyo to purchase these islands. But it's the sloppy government's fault too," another tweeted.
Many in Japan feel let down by the government's past dealings with the islands. In 2010, tensions between the two countries reached new heights when a Chinese fishing boat and a Japanese Defense Force ship collided near the islands. The Chinese crew was detained, but then released after strong Chinese protests.
Japanese blogger and writer Ichiro Yamamoto immediately responded on his blog:
"I'm swaying between irritation that this is not the reason why we elected Mr. Ishihara as governor in the first place, and another self-centered feeling saying 'that's an interesting move, keep going' and encouraging it."
On the other side of the spectrum, some people do voice concerns that such an action will not make the situation any better:
"It's not because Tokyo purchases the islands that the islands will be better protected," this tweet reads.
A family living near Tokyo reportedly owns part of the islands and has offered to sell to Tokyo. The Japanese government has reacted by saying it will get in touch with this family to analyze the situation. Beijing, meanwhile, warned Ishihara's such statement would damage not only bilateral ties, but also Japan's international image. Chinese have played hardball. When their fishing crew was detained, Beijing stopped exporting so-called rare earth to Japan and elsewhere. Rare earth are minerals critical in a variety of high-tech products. I'm Toshi Maeda in Tokyo for LinkAsia.
Shintaro Ishihara is known for his unconventional campaigns. Back in 2001, a crow disturbed his golf game, so he declared an all-out war. And since then, Tokyo has spent over 5 million dollars exterminating crows. To find out more about our contributor Toshi, you can visit LinkTV.org/LinkAsiaExperts.