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Hodaka Maruyama. Photo: Twitter | @maruyamahodaka

Japanese lawmaker raises prospect of war to ‘reclaim’ islets controlled by South Korea

  • Lower house legislator Hodaka Maruyama asked in a tweet on Saturday whether war wasn’t ‘the only way to get them back’
  • He was previously expelled from a political party for broaching the subject of war in relation to another set of islands controlled by Russia
A Japanese lawmaker claimed his right to free speech was being curtailed on Tuesday after he suggested war with South Korea would settle a territorial dispute between it and Japan.
“I only raised a question, and there is nothing wrong with it in terms of the constitution and law. I won’t give in to pressure trying to suppress [free] speech,” lower house legislator Hodaka Maruyama said on Twitter.
“What have politicians who are in a position to decide and negotiate done so far?” he asked, taking issue with what he sees as the Diet’s inaction in protesting South Korean defence drills and a visit by lawmakers to a group of disputed islands.

Maruyama, who belongs to NHK Kara Kokumin Wo Mamoru To (the party to protect the people from NHK [Japan’s national broadcasting organisation]), tweeted on Saturday, “Isn’t war the only way to get them back?” referencing the group of South Korea-controlled, Japan-claimed islands that were recently visited by a group of lawmakers.

South Korean armed forces hold an exercise on islets known as Dokdo in Korean and Takeshima in Japan. Photo: EPA

The two countries have been at loggerheads over the islands, known as Takeshima in Japan and Dokdo in South Korea, and the lawmakers’ visit came amid worsening bilateral ties over wartime history and trade policy.

Japanese ruling and opposition lawmakers criticised Maruyama’s tweet, with it following similar comments he made over different islands disputed between Japan and Russia.

“The government’s policy is to continue diplomatic efforts to resolve the [territorial] issue peacefully based on international law,” Mitsuhiro Miyakoshi, minister-in-charge of territorial issues, said at a press conference called to address the latest controversy.

A bust of Soviet state founder Vladimir Lenin in front of a Russian Orthodox church on one of the islands known as the Southern Kurils in Russia and the Northern Territories in Japan. Photo: Reuters

Maruyama was expelled from the opposition Japan Innovation Party after he asked the leader of a group of former Japanese residents of one of the four Russia-held islands off Hokkaido, “Do you think there is any alternative to war [to regain control of the islands]?”

Maruyama apologised and retracted the remarks made while on a visit to the islands, but the Diet still passed a rare resolution to rebuke him.

The long-standing dispute over the islands called the Northern Territories in Japan and the Southern Kurils in Russia has prevented the two countries from signing a post-war peace treaty.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed last year to step up peace treaty negotiations, but no substantial progress has been made.