AMPONTAN

Japan from the inside out

Inose Naoki on the Senkakus purchase

Posted by ampontan on Wednesday, September 26, 2012

AS the vice-governor of the Tokyo Metro District, Inose Naoki had a behind-the-scenes view of the circumstances when the national government supplanted the Tokyo Metro District to purchase the Senkaku islets.

Twitter is the de facto Japanese blogosphere, and here is a series of six Tweets he recently wrote presenting the Tokyo Metro District’s viewpoint. They’re a bit sketchy owing to the nature of the medium, but they’re still worth reading.

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* It’s very risky for the fishermen from Ishigaki to travel to the Senkakus with its abundant fishery resources. They have five-ton ships and 1 watt radios. The Chinese and the Taiwanese operate much larger ships, and they have 10 watt radios. In light of this, Ishigaki Mayor Nakayama Yoshitaka (a former Diet member) asked if it would be possible to build a basin for their ships and a radio tower. Contact with the owner of the Senkakus was possible through upper house member Santo Akiko.

* A message was relayed from Ms. Santo to (Tokyo) Gov. Ishihara. He met with the owner a year ago. The owner said he wanted to transfer the islets before any problems with the inheritance (taxes) arose. Ordinarily, discussions would have started right away, but the situation became as slippery as an eel. There were financial liabilities, but an investigation would soon turn those up. There were also assets, but a look at the balance sheet showed they were worth about JPY 1.0 – 1.5 billion.

* The owner requested a deposit, but that was not possible because of our responsibility to provide explanations to the taxpayers and the procedures based on the rules of democracy. We conveyed our intent to survey the islands and to entrust the matter to the asset valuation council, which would determine an appropriate price. We would also have to ask the assembly to approve the purchase. At just that time, the Noda government approached the owner with a JPY 2.05 billion-plus offer that would ensure him a large profit.

* What was a simple matter of the domestic transfer of title from the owner to the Tokyo Metro District suddenly became a matter of nationalization. If it’s a question of shifting from an annual rental of JPY 25 million to nationalization, then it’s meaningless. When Prime Minister Noda and Gov. Ishihara met, the prime minister thought the ship basin plan was a good idea, and said he would respond soon. But the Foreign Ministry doesn’t listen to the Kantei (PM’s office). The Kantei has no influence at all.

* The Foreign Ministry made an inquiry to the Chinese in some form, but the (Japanese) official didn’t want to create a disadvantage by doing something unnecessary, so he formally withdrew. It was completely beyond me why they were nationalizing the islets for a bundle of money. It just exposed the government’s indecisiveness for everyone to see, including the Chinese. The sense of the word “nationalization” is completely different in China. They just made excuses.

* Allowing the Hong Kong activists to land on the islets was a clear error in judgment by the Noda administration and the Foreign Ministry. Allowing the issue of the territory to become a dispute will result in further escalation. They should have dealt with them before they reached shore. It is not possible to have a discussion with people who say, “The Senkakus are our land, so we’ll attack and loot Japanese corporations.” What remains is the problem of Chinese pride.

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Here’s an unrelated update/addendum that’s too short for a regular post, but still deserves mention.

There is a website called Asia Eye, described as the Official Blog of the Project 2049 Institute. They publish a weekly roundup of featurettes with links called Under the Radar. The heading reads, “A weekly compilation of under-reported events in Asia.”

Here’s this week’s lead story in the parade of under the radar, under-reported events in Asia.

The Japanese government’s purchase of the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands has sparked violent street protests throughout China as fishing boats were dispatched to the disputed waters to oppose Japan’s nationalization of the contested islands.

To be fair, some, though not all, of the mini-stories are under-reported. Then again, not all of them are Asia-related. Nevertheless, that’s as good a demonstration as any of why I spend so little time reading what the Western Anglosphere has to say about East Asia.

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