This analysis evaluates the key factors involved in Japan's three territorial disputes with Russia, China and South Korea. First, the analysis provides a brief background for each dispute, examining their origins in Japan's pre-World War II Imperial expansion and the post-war settlement.
Territorial disputes in Asia remain a serious challenge to peace, stability, and prosperity of the region. In fact, of all interstate disputes, those over territory tend to be nearly twice as likely as other issues to lead to armed conflict. A mix of political and economic interests, normative reasons, and competition over scarce natural resources has been suggested as drivers of conflict over disputed territories. In Asia today, geopolitical shifts, natural resources, and environmental degradation are a source of concern.
In dealing with its maritime disputes, China has lately followed an intransigent approach to strengthen its sovereignty claims in the China seas (The East China Sea and South China Sea) Beijing asserts not only its sovereign right but also its actual control of those disputed islands. By regularly dispatching maritime patrol vessels and surveillance aircrafts to the surrounding waters and skies, China has brought the Huangyan islands from the Philippines back under its control and made what is referred to as 'dual control' of the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands a new reality.
North Korea will continue to remain East Asia’s trouble-maker. Pyongyang’s active missile and nuclear programs leave the region’s main powers - China, Japan, South Korea and the ‘offshore balancer’ US - stay on alert, sometimes higher, sometimes lower. Pyongyang has no intention whatsoever to give up and dismantle its missile and nuclear programs as it would leave the country with no bargaining tools to employ for its political blackmail policies. China remains a staunch supporter of the current status quo, i.e.
Recent and ongoing shifts in Japan’s military security – both domestic and in relations with other countries – are once again stirring the debate about whether Japan’s security posture is set for radical change. Japan’s recent policies towards North Korea, Myanmar/Burma, Iran and Afghanistan as well as new security issues suggest, however, that change is continuative.
Japan is facing hard times. Domestic politics is stuck in a stalemate and is as ever replacing Prime Minister every 12-18 months. Economic growth remains sluggish, the country is burdened with public debt amounting to 200% of the country’s GDP while at the same being confronted with a possibly nuclear-armed North Korea and a militarily growing assertive China. ISPI Studies has invited five authors European, Japanese and American authors to make sense of the current state and trends of Japanese politics, economics and foreign policies.