Japan has Territorial Issues with Russia, too

“On Trenin’s Proposal for Russia to Return Four Disputed Islands to Japan”
Hakamada Shigeki
GFJ Commentary
February 28, 2013

As if having to argue with China and Korea over rocks was not complex enough for Japan, a third territorial counterparty is (re)emerging in the form of Moscow. It seems like, since everyone else in the neighborhood wants to clarify territorial issues, the Russians are chiming in as well.

This time, the tone is conciliatory, even though it does not come from the Kremlin. Dmitri Trenin, who directs the Carnegie Moscow Centre, put out a paper in December of 2012 proposing a mechanism by which four islands taken by the USSR from Japan at the end of World War II would be returned to Japanese control.

Professor Hakamada Shigeki of the University of Niigata prefecture is cool to the proposal. While conceding that any such opening is worth pursuing, he is under no illusions about Trenin’s position (a Western-funded think tanker rather than a Kremlin insider) and Putin‘s continuing need to prove to Russians he is a strongman.

To expect Russia to concede territory for nothing would be unrealistic. But Hakamada sees other wheels at work. China looms large for Russia (especially after Xi Jinping’s recent visit) but Putin will not want to close out other options in the region. Working out longstanding territorial disputes with Japan would allow Russia to play the conciliator in a Sino-Japanese standoff, and would keep Japan in the game as an alternate destination for Siberian natural gas.

The source of the suggestion is Machiavellian. To have the suggestion come from the Carnegie Centre could be serving as Putin’s trial balloon, giving him a chance to judge Japanese reaction without committing himself publicly.

The next move, as Hakamada hints, is Japan’s. It will be interesting to see how this plays out. Clearly, the diplomatic game is afoot in East Asia.

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Japan’s Coming China Reckoning

“Japan’s China Policy — Engagement, but for How Long?
Victoria Tuke
German Marshall Fund of the United States
May 29, 2012

Japan’s political system tends to place a premium on postponing tough decisions. One such decision, argues Warwick Ph.D. candidate Victoria Tuke, cannot be put off for much longer: the nature of Japan’s relationship with an emerging China.

Tuke argues for a strategy that balances Beijing and Washington without taking sides. It is a persuasive argument and one that Fredrick the Great would have appreciated.

One could argue that Japan in the past has shown little inclination to stand twixt two giants, but this is not the core challenge with Tuke’s thesis. Rather, the question is whether Beijing’s actions – unlikely to be friendly to Japan – will permit Japan to strike such a balance.

Japanese Science: Anything but Foreigners

Kyoto University, one of the most prestigious ...

Image via Wikipedia

“Revamp Math and Science Education, Kazuo Nishimura, AJISS-Commentary

The Japanese Institutes of Strategic Studies, a conservative think-tank in Tokyo, has published this op-ed by Kazuo Nishimura, a Professor of Mathematical Economics at Kyoto University.

In the op-ed, Nishimura calls for starting science education earlier, changing the structure of elementary courses, and keeping high-school kids in compulsory science courses longer in High school. More controversially, he also calls for a complete overhaul of the nation’s grading system.

All of these are good proposals, especially the latter, but the one policy Nishimura shies form is the one most likely to make a difference in the near term: allowing greater numbers of foreign scientists to come into Japan to work and offer their efforts to Japanese companies. Indeed, he believes this is the problem.

A fascinating article.

The PLA from a Japanese Viewpoint

China Security Report – The National Institute for Defense Studies.

The better-known analyses of China’s defense posture and its implications for the rest of the world tend to come from American, European, and Australian sources, but the developed country with the most immediate and pressing need to understand China’s intentions is Japan.

This year, for the second time, Japan has issued its China Security Report detailing its view of China’s spending, its strategic and military needs, and its near-term intentions. Being a public document and being from Japan, many of the conclusions are couched in language that is diplomatic and polite, framing its conclusions in terms of China’s concerns. This report is worth the read, both because it is pithy and because it offers a viewpoint that compliments the published assessments at the Pentagon.

Current Studies in Japanese Law

Japanese law has always been something of a mystery to those who do not practice the profession, but given the unique relationships between government, business, and even organized crime in Japanese society, the law in Japan makes for interesting reading.

If you’re interested in the Japanese legal system, labor unrest, or crime in Japan, this book is sure to be of interest. It covers issues such as strikes, police, the court system, and the practice of law in Japan.