Japan plans to better spell out its claims to disputed islands

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 04 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 04 April, 2013, 2:29am

The Japanese government plans to set up a team of experts to devise ways to better spell out Tokyo's position in territorial disputes with its neighbours.

A panel will submit a report to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in about six months.

The measure was announced by Ichita Yamamoto, who is the minister who oversees affairs involving Okinawa and the northern territories - the name Japan uses to cover islands off the northern tip of Hokkaido that were seized by the Soviet Union in the final stages of the second world war.

"It is natural for a country and a government of a country to convey messages regarding our territory and sovereignty," said Akihiko Sunami, a spokesman for the Office of Policy Planning and Co-ordination on Territory and Sovereignty. "It is natural that we want to make out position better understood," he said.

No names have yet been put forward for the panel, Sunami said, although it will be made up of experts and academics who have experience in the areas of international law, territorial law, history and communications.

As soon as a strategy is drawn up, the office, which was only set up in February and comes under the Prime Minister's Office, will set about promoting Japan's position on issues such as the territorial dispute with China over the Senkaku Islands, which Beijing refers to as the Diaoyu Islands, and the Takeshima islets, which are controlled by South Korea, where they are known as the Dokdo islets.

Sunami said Japan's stance would be conveyed to both a domestic and overseas audience.

Meanwhile, the right-wing Yomiuri newspaper again reiterated Japan's claims to the islands in an extensive analytical story by a senior research fellow of the Yomiuri Research Institute.

In an accompanying article, the editor explained the reason for the paper's "Views from Japan" column.

"Is Japan accurately understood by people abroad? Is it properly communicating information about itself to the rest of the world?" wrote Satoru Watanabe. "Regrettably, the answer to both questions is, 'Not enough'."