Russian intrusion at Takeshima, ROK response must not be ignored

The Yomiuri ShimbunThe government should reinforce Japan’s preparedness to protect its territorial land and waters.

A Russian military aircraft violated Japan’s territorial airspace around the Takeshima islands in Shimane Prefecture. The government soon lodged a protest against Russia. Behavior that threatens Japan’s sovereignty and heightens tensions is never acceptable.

More problematic is that the air force of South Korea, which stakes a claim to Takeshima, scrambled its fighter jets against the Russian aircraft and fired warning shots. It is said that about 360 rounds of warning shots were fired.

The South Korean behavior, which could be seen as if it were protecting its own territory, cannot be overlooked. It is reasonable that the Japanese government lodged a strong protest against Seoul, saying that South Korea’s involvement was incompatible with Japan’s position.

Takeshima is a Japanese territory both historically and in terms of international law. Japanese people caught fish around the islets in the Edo period (1603-1867) and the government incorporated it into Shimane Prefecture in 1905.

In the negotiations for the San Francisco Peace Treaty, South Korea claimed sovereignty over Takeshima, but the United States did not approve the claim. South Korea later established the Syngman Rhee Line and illegally occupied the islets.

In 2012, then South Korean President Lee Myung-bak landed on Takeshima. There have been a series of landings on the islets by South Korean lawmakers. The South Korean Navy and others repeatedly conduct defense training in the surrounding seas. Rather than ignoring such self-serving behaviors, the Japanese government needs to resolutely reassert its position each time such behaviors take place.

Don’t neglect warning

Japan does not include the areas around Takeshima in the air defense identification zone set up to avoid violations of its territorial airspace. This is intended to avoid an unintended clash with South Korea. However, the Defense Ministry must not neglect its warning and surveillance activities around the sea areas.

Russia’s Defense Ministry announced that the Russian and Chinese air forces conducted their first joint patrol flight over the Sea of Japan. It said that Russian and Chinese strategic bombers made a patrol flight over the Sea of Japan and the East China Sea.

In response, the Air Self-Defense Force scrambled its fighters, and the aircraft engaged in warning activities. Meanwhile, another Russian aircraft violated the Japan’s terrritorial airspace over Takeshima.

There are several hundred scrambles against Russian aircraft each year, but there had been no examples of territorial airspace violations around Takeshima before. It can be said that the recent incident reflects the severe security environment surrounding Japan.

It is feared that deterrence is weakening around the Korean Peninsula. The United States and South Korea called off a large-scale joint military drill. The relationship between Japanese and South Korean defense authorities has also cooled over an incident in which the South Korean Navy directed fire-control radar at a Maritime Self-Defense Force plane.

Weren’t China and Russia trying to test the coping ability of Japan, the United States and South Korea, taking advantage of such diminished deterrence and a chilled relationship?

Japan and South Korea, both of which are allies of the United States, are in a position to take responsibility for stability in Asia. South Korea should be aware of that responsibility and cease activities that make it look as if it regards Japan with hostility.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 25, 2019)Speech


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