Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Name Games

In the midst of the uproar over the Senkaku boat collision, a former director for the Japan, Korea and Oceanic affairs on the National Security Council, Katrin Katz, wrote an article about the territorial issues that “plague” the relations between countries in Northeast Asia.

On July 27, 2008, at 7:00 AM, Katz received a call from the South Korean embassy. Apparently, a U.S. government website, which had a list of the various islands of the world and who owns them, changed the ownership of the Liancourt Rocks from South Korea to “undesignated sovereignty.” Apparently, the website had changed the designation to bring it in line with the longstanding U.S. policy towards the islands. But the change made South Korea very, very mad. South Korea demanded to know why the website would change the designation of the islands at such a sensitive time in the relationship between Japan and Korea. In response to the change, their media wrote that America had a “pro-Japan bias” (Japan is the other country that claims the Liancourt Rocks). Because of the incident, Lee Tae-sik, the South Korean ambassador, might be fired for failing to prevent the change on the website.

In an effort to persuade the U.S. government of the righteousness of their claim, the South Korean government provided the U.S. government with several glossy brochures which proclaimed that the Liancourt Rocks were “our sovereign territory.” Japan, apparently, begged to differ and so they provided the U.S. government with another set of glossy brochures which said something quite different.

All this occurred just days before President Bush was scheduled to visit South Korea. To keep the trip from becoming a disaster, on July 30, President Bush decided to change the website back to its original state. So in the end, this incident changed nothing and solved nothing, but it did, apparently, leave a lasting impression.

“Becoming enmeshed in such disputes can be highly frustrating, as they have the tendency to bring work on more ‘current’ issues to a screeching halt,” said Katz.

And that’s why East Asia likes to do stuff like this. Rather than working on things that America would like to work on, East Asia would rather waste everyone’s time on an issue that won’t be resolved and won’t move forward. But in the meantime, the business ties between Japan, China, and South Korea keep growing stronger and stronger. Seikei bunri strikes again.

Of course, Katz wrote this article during the uproar over the Senkaku boat collision, another waste of time on a territorial dispute that solved nothing. Presumably, this article was also part of the “New Diplomacy.” Apparently, America wanted to make it appear as though these disputes occur without its consent. That is highly debatable. America has always wanted to keep Japan, Korea, and China separated from each other. These territorial disputes increase the mutual animosity between the people in those three countries.

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