Japan is having trouble with Russia in the north, with South Korea in the west and with China and Taiwan in the south over territorial disputes. Being a military ally of the United States, however, Japan could become a pain in Uncle Sam's neck if tensions continued to escalate.
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev in early July visited Kunashir Island, part of the Southern Kurils, prompting the Japanese government to say it was an "extremely regrettable" move.
Kunashir, the southernmost and the second-largest island of the Kurils, lies just 25 kilometers off Japan's Hokkaido. The Kurils are also claimed by Japan, which calls them the Northern Territories.
South Korean President Lee Myung-bak on Aug. 10 visited Dokdo Island, known as Takeshima Island in Japan, and prompted Japan to recall its ambassador in Seoul.
But Japan is not without provocative actions when it comes to sovereignty disputes.
Japan is reportedly close to reaching a deal with private owners of the Senkaku Islands to purchase the archipelago, which is known as the Tiaoyutai Islands in Taiwan and the Diaoyutai Islands in China. The islands are claimed by Japan, China and Taiwan.
The following are excerpts from local media coverage of Japan-U.S. relations amid regional territorial rows:
The United States needs Japan's cooperation as part of its military deployment in the Asia Pacific, but does not need Japan to act as a troublemaker in the region because conflicts would not serve America's interest.
The U.S. wants to create an alliance with Japan and South Korea to counter the powers of China, North Korea and Russia. The Dokdo dispute, however, must have been like a bolt from the blue for the U.S. and will leave it in a difficult position and Japan without Washington's full support over the issue.
In addition, despite Japan's protest against Russia's moves, the U.S. is highly unlikely to engage in a military confrontation with Russia in support of Japan's claim over the Kurils.
Washington's military strategies have always included distancing Taiwan from China and consolidating Japan and Taiwan against the Chinese expansionism. The Tiaoyutai row, nonetheless, will likely draw Taiwan and China closer.
The U.S. may like to see Japan and China in opposing positions, but it would definitely not like to see them in a nasty fight that would drag it into troubled waters. (Aug. 14, 2012)
(By Jamie Wang)