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Talk of the Day -- Simmering East Asia territorial disputes

2012/08/13 22:51:30

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak's recent visit to volcanic outcrops in the Sea of Japan, known as Dokdo in Korea and Takeshima in Japan, has added to uncertainty already simmering in Northeast and Southeast Asia over territorial disputes.

The trip -- the first by a South Korean president -- has angered Japan, whose Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba said over the weekend that the country could ask the International Court of Justice to settle the bitter row over the island group.

In response, South Korea's ruling New Frontier Party said that any such move would be an act of "imprudence" and called on Japan to fully repent for its harsh colonial rule over Korea from 1910 to 1945 -- a source of resentment among many elderly Koreans.

The latest eruption of the longstanding territorial dispute comes amid increasingly assertive claims to disputed island groups in the East China Sea and the South China Sea that involve Taiwan, China, Japan and several Southeast Asian countries, including the Philippines and Vietnam.

According to media reports, Japan's Self-Defense Forces are working on a response package to cope with possible landings on the disputed Tiaoyutai Islands in the East China Sea by activists from Taiwan, China, Hong Kong and Macau.

The following are excerpts from local media coverage of brooding regional territorial disputes:

United Evening News:

The Japanese business daily Sankei Shimbun reported Monday that as the Tokyo Metropolitan Government is almost ready to strike a deal to acquire ownership of the Tiaoyutais from its private owner, Japan's central government worries that China may take provocative actions over the issue.

The uninhabited Tiaoyutai Islands -- known as the Senkaku Islands in Japan and the Diaoyutai Islands in China -- is now under Japanese control but is also claimed by Taiwan and China.

Citing a contingency package drafted by the Japan Self-Defense Forces, the Sankei Shimbun said naval warships will be dispatched to the Tiaoyutais if any Chinese ships take the initiative to attack Japanese coast guard patrol boats and Chinese militia make landings on the islets during such attacks.

The paper also said Japan's Maritime Safety Agency has stepped up contingency deployment in the region amid reports that activists from Taiwan, China and Hong Kong are likely to demonstrate inthe Taioyutai waters in the coming few days to reassert sovereignty claims to the island chains.

Japanese coast guard patrol vessels have also heightened alert in waters around the Tiaoyutais, the reports said.

Activists from Hong Kong, China and Taiwan are scheduled to arrive in waters near the Tiaoyutais Wednesday to highlight the claim that the island group belongs to Chinese people, not Japanese, media reports said. (Aug. 13, 2012).

China Times:

Taiwan should learn from Spain's unwavering efforts to reassert its claim to the Gibraltar, which has been under British control for centuries, local political analysts said.

Spain has not fought with the United Kingdom over the Gibraltar, which is close to the southern tip of Spain, but it has never missed any opportunity to reassert its claim to the tiny territory.

In 1991, the British government finally allowed Gibraltar residents to take over the region's defense mission.

To date, Spain is still endeavoring to negotiate with Britain over the future status of Gibraltar.

Since the Tiaoyutai Islands are located closer to Taiwan than to Japan, the analysts said, the government should never cease its claim to the island chain. (Aug. 13, 2012).

(By Sofia Wu)