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[Opinion] Japanese Government`s Unrealistic Measures on Saury Fishing

[Opinion] Japanese Government`s Unrealistic Measures on Saury Fishing

Posted August. 09, 2001 08:25,   


As the South Korean fishing boats operated the saury fishing in waters off southern Kuril Islands with the permission from the Russian government after the South Korea government made agreement with the Russian government, this became a diplomatic dispute among South Korea, Japan, and Russia. Japan insists that this is `an infringement of Japan`s sovereignty`.

In fact, Japan-Russia relationship directly and indirectly influences South Korea`s national interests. One of the major factors that define Japan-Russia relationship is the issue of northern territories.

1956 Japan-USSR Joint Declaration includes an article that says that Russia will hand over two islands (Habomai and Shicotan) to Japan after concluding a peace treaty. However, Russia unilaterally notified Japan an additional condition, in which foreign military armies should retreat from Japan in 1960. Since then, two countries have disputed over the validity of the joint declaration. 1973 Japan-USSR Joint Proclamation has a sentence that states `various unresolved issues` between the two countries, and the two countries have continued to argue whether the issue of territory is included in `various issues` for 30 years.

Japan`s deep attachment to the issue of territory is so strong that it is not an exaggeration to say that Japan`s diplomatic policy on the USSR (Russia) has focused only to confirm the existence of the issue of territory. Although Japan was flexible sometimes on the issue of territory, it has maintained the inseparable relationship between politics and economics, which says that `a large-scale economic cooperation is impossible without the resolution of the territorial issue`.

The USSR (Russia), approaching more realistically since the Gorvachev government, consented to record a document that says that the USSR would discuss the return of 4 islands. However, Russia never directly expressed an intention to return not only the four islands, but also the two other islands. If Japan is satisfied with the return of two islands and agrees on the peace treaty, giving up the dominium of the remaining two islands, Russia will appropriately respond to Japan. However, Japan cannot accept such a proposal.

Prime Minister Hashimoto Ruetaro`s plan was that if Russia returns two islands first, and accepts Japan`s sovereignty over the other two islands, Japan would take measures flexibly on the returning time. Such an idea of the `return 4 islands separately` was succeeded to Prime Minister Obuchi Geizo, and was progressed to the extent to agree to have separate negotiations based on the premise of separate return of islands during the time of Prime Minister Mori Yoshiro. However, major politicians of the Koizumi Junichiro administration are opposing to the separate negotiations, and instead argue for the former approach, that is, the collective return of 4 islands.

Conclusively speaking, it is almost impossible that the Japan-Russia`s dispute over the territory will be resolved in future. This issue will continue to work as a major factor that either hinders or restrains the development of the relationship between the two countries in the area of politics, economics, and others.

The issue of northern territory is a sensitive issue that is related to the national sentiment. The South Korean fishing boats are operating in such a sensitive area under the permission of the Russian government. The South Korean government`s position is that the issue of operation of fishing is purely an issue of business and fishing, with no connection to the territorial issue between Japan and Russia, and it does not damage any position of the two countries –Japan and Russia. Russia also rejected Japan`s protest and demand to cancel the permission for fishing.

The Japanese government`s measure on the issue of saury fishing was late in terms of time, and was unrealistic and biased in terms of legal principles. Although South Korea-Russia`s treaty was made last December, the Japanese government began to take a measure in March. It was known that Japan took a measure late because of the `paralysis` of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) due to the confusion of the domestic politics, an incident of the use of the MFA`s secrete funds, conflicts between Tanaka Makiko, Minister of the MFA, and other officials of the MFA. Moreover, it was said that pressures from competent members of the Liberal Democratic Party in the area of agriculture-fishery and Diet members of each election district had restrained the flexible measures of the MFA.

No matter how the Japanese government deals with the issue of permission to the operation of saury fishing by the South Korean fishing boats in waters off the Sanriku, the Japanese government will continue to take efforts to minimize the damage on Japan`s insistence on the dominium, recording a document on the raised objections over this issue.

Kim Young-Jin (Honorary professor at George Washington University, U.S., and visiting professor at Keio University, Japan)