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Ultra-nationalist Ishihara provokes Japan's neighbours
Publication Date : 30-08-2012
Shintaro Ishihara, governor of Tokyo, is sending a survey team to the Senkaku Islands on Sunday in defiance of a Japanese government order on visits without permission.
Ishihara couldn't get permission, but his team is visiting three of the eight tiny islets called the Tiaoyu or Diaoyu Islands which both Taiwan and China claim as their inherent territory. The visit is to pave the way for him to buy the islands to defend against the People's Republic of China in lieu of lame duck Prime Minister Yoshiko Noda's government, which wants to nationalise the archipelago, itself only 100 miles southeast of Keelung.
Governor Ishihara made the announcement about the Senkaku isles in Washington three months ago to kick off the current round of sovereignty disputes between Taiwan and China. He did it again last Friday in Tokyo by openly insulting what are known as comfort women.
At a press conference at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government office, Ishihara said there is no evidence that Chinese and Korean women were forced into service as sex slaves for soldiers of the Japanese imperial army during World War II, part of which was an undeclared four-year-long war between Japan and the Republic of China.
He also said “prostitution was a very good way of making a living for women at that time and they chose the trade not unwillingly.”
He insisted that Japan need not apologise for it, and called Yuhei Kono, a former Cabinet chief secretary, “stupid” for offering an apology in 1993 to South Korea. The apology led current President Lee Myung-bak to claim Korean women were kidnapped to provide Japanese soldiers with sexual services. Ishihara then went on to say Lee's claim was unsubstantiated and that Lee doesn't deserve to be president.
On Saturday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Mofa) expressed regret that Ishihara insulted Taiwan's comfort women and demanded a sincere apology. Of more than 2,000 Taiwan-born women forced into sex slavery abroad during the war only nine are still alive, according to the Taipei Women's Rescue Foundation, and the Waichiaopu (Mofa) has vowed to assist them in appealing for justice and restoring their dignity.
It seems that Ishihara is intent on outdoing Noda in exacerbating relations between Japan and its three next-door neighbours. Japan's relations with South Korea are plunging to an all-time low due to the sovereignty dispute over the small island of Takeshima, which Seoul claims as its territory of Dokdo.
The Japanese government is planning to deploy officers and men of the Self-Defence Forces as a garrison on the Senkakus to prevent another landing by Hong Kong activists after 14 of them were arrested on the largest of the islets on charges of illegal entry and deported forthwith earlier this month. He said his survey team may be expelled by police, but insisted that he himself would visit the biggest islet of Uotsuri-shima next month without government permission. And as if that were not enough, he made insulting remarks at Friday's press meeting to pick another quarrel with Taiwan, China and South Korea.
What Ishihara wants is to win a snap general election that Noda has to call in November at the latest. Ultra-nationalism is on the rise in Japan, and the ultra-nationalist Ishihara, together with another ultra-nationalist, Mayor Toru Hashimoto of Osaka, wishes to sweep into victory by making Noda's ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) look bad in the eyes of eligible voters.
As a matter of fact, the approval ratings of the Noda Cabinet have hit an all-time low, and the chances are that the ultra-nationalists, with the help of the Liberal Democratic Party and the new party Ichiro Ozawa has formed by splitting the ruling DPJ, may form a coalition to rule Japan.
Ishihara is a resourceful politician. There are a couple of other tricks up his sleeve that he may play to surprise everyone and embarrass Noda in the run-up to the snap election. However, with or without any more embarrassment, the days of Noda's governing party are over.