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Politician's remarks on Senkakus, Takeshima draw criticism

Publication Date : 09-10-2012


Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, leader of Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party), has ruffled feathers within the party by suggesting that the Senkaku Islands and Takeshima island be "jointly managed" with neighbouring nations, according to political sources.

Hashimoto's comments fly in the face of the government view that the Senkakus and Takeshima are Japanese territory.

The new party, which is expanding its power base in Osaka with a view to running in the next general election, has started to introduce its policies on diplomatic and defence issues.

China claims sovereignty over the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture, and South Korea effectively controls Takeshima in Shimane Prefecture. Tensions over the islands have flared in recent months. Japan also has been locked in a dispute with Russia over the northern territories off Hokkaido.

Although Hashimoto insisted that the islands are Japanese sovereign territories, he said, "They should be managed jointly with neighbouring countries."

Hashimoto also called for cooperative management of marine resources in areas around the islands. "Sovereignty and utilisation are different matters," he said.

Hashimoto added, "[Japan] should take the matters to the International Court of Justice," to end the disputes over the islands.

Observers believe Hashimoto made these remarks because he is aware of his party's weakness in diplomatic and defence issues. Nippon Ishin no Kai started out as a regional party in Osaka with chiefly domestic concerns.

Although Hashimoto told reporters in March that he could not pretend to have any deep knowledge of diplomatic or defence policies, he reportedly has read many books about foreign affairs since then.

However, Hashimoto's string of remarks has elicited objections from within Ishin no Kai.

Kenzo Yoneda, former member of the House of Representatives and an adviser for the party's Tokyo office, has been critical of Hashimoto's remarks.

"The territorial issue is a 'lifeline' for politicians. [Hashimoto's remark on joint management misses the point, and it will affect [him] in a considerably negative way," he said.

South Korea's Chosun Ilbo daily took a swipe at Hashimoto's remark about joint management of the Takeshima islet in its September 26 issue, describing it as "a reckless remark that would never be accepted".

Experts' opinions are divided. Shinichi Kitaoka, professor at National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies, who is an expert on Japan's political diplomatic history, said, "Making more remarks about security and diplomacy shows a healthy attitude."

On the other hand, Terumasa Nakanishi, professor emeritus at Kyoto University and an expert on international politics, said: "[Hashimoto's remarks] hurt national interests, as they might send the wrong message that Japan would make concessions.

"Hashimoto is a superstar as a leader of local administration, but his diplomatic proposals are unrealistic and useless."


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