Archive | December, 2013

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5 Reasons to Go to Istanbul in Winter

Posted on 31 December 2013 by admin

With its glamorous waterways and millennia of history, Istanbul is a stunner in any season. Still, savvy travelers skip the summertime throngs to find the city humming with centuries-old traditions, innovative attractions, and nonstop local energy. Here are five ways to get in on the action this winter.


1. Cruise Control

Istanbul’s bustling cruise port receives over ᔘ,000 visitors per year, and its main terminal, Karakoy Yolcu Salonu, is just minutes from historical sites like the Blue Mosque and Aya Sophia. During high season, from April through October, enthusiastic cruisers crowd these attractions, resulting in 45-minute-long queues to enter Topkapi Palace and claustrophobia-inducing tours of the underground Basilica Cistern. Thankfully, the maritime masses all but disappear during the winter months. From December to March, the lines for the Blue Mosque rarely exceed 10 minutes, and hagglers in the Grand Bazaar are more likely to be Turkish grandmothers than camera-toting cruisers.

2. Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

A global trade and transit hub since the 5th-century BC, this continent-straddling capital of culture is now more accessible than ever. National carrier Turkish Airlines has direct flights out of New York City‘s JFK airport starting at $500 round-trip, plus a newly renovated, 32,000-square-foot business class lounge at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport. The carrier has also begun accepting reservations for its inaugural Boston-Istanbul route, which will launch in May 2014. In the meantime, upon arrival, urbanites can dodge Istanbul’s notorious traffic and navigate the Bosphorus with ease via the new Marmaray. This 8.5-mile underwater tunnel connects the European and Asian sides of the city in less than five minutes. Originally proposed by an Ottoman sultan in 1860, the Marmaray finally debuted in October 2013.

3. Drink It In

Thirsty travelers, take heart. Following the September harvest of their stellar regional wines, including ancient varietals like Okuzgozu and Kalecik Karasi, Turks turn to a classic winter warmer called salep. Akin to Anatolian eggnog, it’s made with milk, sugar, cinnamon, and salep powder, a sturdy thickening agent made from finely ground mountain orchids. A cold-weather mainstay, salep is found pretty much everywhere in the coming months: street vendors push copper barrels of the stuff through the streets of Sultanahmet, ferries on the Bosphorus serve it alongside ubiquitous cups of black Turkish tea, and charming Beyoglu cafes like Peranostra pour it into steaming porcelain mugs all winter long.


4. Sleep It Off

Earlier this year, several hoteliers set up shop in Istanbul. Mama Shelter, Philippe Starck’s quirky-cool budget brand, opened in the Beyoglu neighborhood in March 2013, and the superlative Shangri-La Bosphorus debuted 186 rooms, two fine-dining restaurants, and a CHI spa in posh Besiktas in May 2013. Availability (and considerable savings) abound in the winter months. At the Shangri-La in January and February, rates for a Deluxe Room with a French balcony and complimentary Wi-Fi start at $ᐙ/night. At Mama Istanbul, three-night stays in a Luxe Double Terrace room, including breakfast, late checkout, and complimentary minibar, run from $150/night through February 28, 2014. And stay tuned for promotional opening rates from newcomer Raffles Istanbul, scheduled to open in the first quarter of 2014.

5. Dance, Dance Revolution

Ain’t no party like an Istanbul party, because the nightlife here is legendary. In the winter months, the open-air club scene is replaced by insider’s favorites like the private room at Ulus 29. This swish, waterfront restaurant in Besiktas transforms its side room into a thumping nightclub on Friday and Saturday nights. In the Beyoglu district, when the temperatures drop, popular rooftop restaurant Nu Teras moves the party to the ground floor, and reopens as the intimate dance club Nu Pera.

Emily Saladino is a food and travel writer based in New York City.

Photo credits: Blue Mosque: Courtesy of Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Turkey; Shangri-La Bosphorus: Courtesy of Shangri-La Bosphorus

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River Cruising: What’s New in 2014

Posted on 31 December 2013 by admin

The art of riving cruising has evolved in surprising ways over the past few years and 2014 promises to bring even more pivotal changes. Cruise companies like Viking, AmaWaterways, Avalon, Uniworld, and A-ROSA have launched and will continue to christen a new generation of river cruisers, while many ships have been purpose-built to ply more unusual rivers like the Irrawaddy in Myanmar and Africa’s Chobe. Itineraries have received an exciting overhaul, too (read up on some of our favorites in 10 Best New Cruise Itineraries for 2014).

Perhaps most importantly, though, cruise lines have meticulously researched what travelers want these days and have implemented new technologies and levels of service aboard their ships. Free Internet? They’ve got it. All-inclusive cruise fares? Check. Waived single supplements? Of course. Riving cruising in 2014 will entice a new generation of travelers to explore the many mighty waterways of the world. Here’s a look at what’s especially new and noteworthy across the board.

New Ships and Itineraries


Viking River Cruises

Viking River Cruises’ hallmark is its line of new Longships, Ǯ of which will launch in 2014. That means by the time 2014 comes to a close, Viking will have debuted a total of 30 riverboats over the last three years. That certainly speaks to the increasing popularity of this type of cruise vacation. Viking’s 14 new Longships will sail the company’s most popular European itineraries like the “Grand European Tour” (from Amsterdam to Budapest), “Cities of Light” (Paris to Prague), and “Heart of Germany” (from Nuremberg to Frankfurt).

So, what’s so special about Longships? To start, they offer spacious accommodations trimmed by an assortment of verandahs and balconies. The ships were also designed with “green” in mind: Hybrid engines, solar panels, and an organic herb garden on the sundeck are a few features green-minded travelers appreciate.

In terms of new itineraries, Viking River Cruises is adding two ships to sail Myanmar‘s Irrawaddy: Viking Mandalay and Viking Sagaing. Both will offer a 16-day Bangkok-to-Bangkok “Memories of Mandalay” itinerary.

Avalon Waterways

Avalon Waterways will also launch a trio of its signature suite ships next year: Avalon Poetry II, Avalon Illumination, and Avalon Impression. The ships—with staterooms offering unique open-air balconies with floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors—will sail a variety of European itineraries, including Paris to Prague, Paris to Budapest, an Amsterdam round-trip, Paris to Amsterdam, and Prague to Budapest.



The 164-passenger AmaSonata and AmaReina—sister ships to the popular AmaCerto—make their debut in Europe in April 2014. Both ships offer a variety of dining venues, a heated pool with a swim-up bar (not often seen on river ships), and unique staterooms with twin balconies and free in-room Internet. All AmaWaterways ships offer complimentary wine, beer, and soft drinks at both lunch and dinner. The vessels will sail popular European itineraries along the Danube and Rhine rivers. On the other side of the world, the 56-guest AmaPura will launch its itineraries along Myanmar’s Irrawaddy River in November 2014.


This relative newcomer to river cruising in Europe, A-ROSA‘s 186-passenger A-ROSA Flora will sail its inaugural season on the Rhine in 2014.



Finally, Uniworld’s super-ship Catherine debuts in France and will sail the Rhone and Saone rivers through Burgundy and Provence. She’ll accommodate 159 passengers across three decks.

In addition to a new ship, Uniworld is also rolling out all-inclusive cruise fares for its European fleet in 2014. The fare includes all gratuities, plus unlimited wine, beer, spirits, soft drinks, and bottled water.

In terms of new itineraries, Uniworld is featuring Bordeaux, France, with its 8-day “Bordeaux, Vineyards Chateaux” and 15-day “A Portrait of Majestic France” itineraries. Both journeys include passage along the three rivers of Aquitaine: the Garonne, the Gironde, and the Dordogne.

Waived Single Supplements

Several river cruise companies are also waiving single supplements on select itineraries in Europe and Southeast Asia in 2014, including AmaWaterways and Avalon Waterways. AmaWaterways also offers six ships in its European fleet with dedicated single berths.

Andrea M. Rotondo is a freelance writer based in New York City. She covers cruise news and luxury travel trends for and writes for a variety of outlets, including her website Luxury Travel Mavens. Follow her on Twitter: @luxtravelmavens.

Photo credits: Courtesy of Viking River Cruises, AmaWaterways, Uniworld

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Posted on 30 December 2013 by admin

Publication Date : 31-12-2013


At the beginning of the 21st Century, the much heralded Asian Century was the compass for global policymakers to set their future directions. They know the region will dominate the next 100 years.

After the end of World War II, the Asian region was peaceful enabling all countries to pursue economic and social agendas diligently. Key economic powers could concentrate on increasing productivity and improving standards of living for their populations.

China, Japan and South Korea have been the three economic giants in East Asia. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Japan was the main driving force in the region until it was overtaken by China as the world’s No. 2 economic power. South Korea has become a bigger economy with high-tech industries following economic turbulence in 1997. At this juncture, the combined economic strength of China, Japan and South Korea is formidable. They are the engine of growth for Asean and the rest of the world, especially after the financial crisis in the West in 2008. But Asean leaders are concerned that if territorial disputes remain unresolved, the much heralded Asean Community in 2015, which envisions Asean as a single production base with 600 million citizens would be hampered.

China, Japan and South Korea are Asean’s dialogue partners. Their close cooperation is pivotal to the economic integration in the region vis-?-vis new economic frameworks designed to facilitate free trade and investment. In addition, Asean also has to manage its territorial disputes with China in the South China Sea—a highly sensitive issue. Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and non-Asean member Taiwan, are in dispute with China over the vast maritime zone. The three-set of maritime conflicts—in Northeast Asia (China/Japan and Japan/South Korea) and South China Sea—are interlinked due to the nature of extensive relations among conflicting and concerned parties. As such, Asean is caught in a huge dilemma to balance its relations with the three economic powers.

Territorial claims in East Asia
Growing tension from maritime territorial claims among China, Japan and South Korea is worrisome as they have impacted on the overall collective. For the first time in post-World War II, major Asian countries are confronting one another with the threat of war. The overlapping claims between China and Japan over the Diaoyu/Senkaku Island, the Dokdo/Takeshima Island between Japan and South Korea are not new due to a contentious history. In the past, these disputes remained dormant without serious repercussions on bilateral relations. However, recent developments among these three countries have caused concerns that if this trend continues it would further destabilise the whole region as each devises security and strategic policies to protect their sovereignty. These measures would heighten the level of tension and could cause further misunderstanding.

The overlapping claims indicate the unyielding attitude of conflicting parties towards the rich resources lying underneath the disputed maritime zones. With the growing scarcity of natural resources and energy world-wide, each country will not let up on its claims.

China and Japan for nearly four decades cooperated excellently on economic and social developments. Both have benefited from cooperation especially through direct investment and technological transfer. Japan was able to access the world’s biggest market.

However, from time to time, World War II hostilities resurface denting bilateral ties. But they have been able to quickly overcome the hostility and mitigate the negative effects on burgeoning economic relations. In other words, increased economic interdependence used to restrain these countries from worsening their conflicts.

But as events unfolded in the last three years, changes in leadership, rise of nationalism, new security alignments as well shifting strategic landscapes have contributed to increasing uncertainties in East Asia. Public opinion polls and changes in national outlook have now become key variables affecting foreign relations and economic cooperation.

Balancing act
Asean has to walk a tight rope on its relations with China and Japan. The leaders are mindful of potential negative implications on their countries both collectively and individually if they choose sides between the two. Asean does not want to be drawn into the conflict involving its three most prominent dialogue partners but as the tension escalates, it is getting more difficult to maintain that balance.  Japan continues to be the region’s largest investor but China is catching up with a bigger market access.

At the recent Asean-Japan summit in Tokyo to commemorate the 40th anniversary of their diplomatic relations, Asean’s rebalancing effort was put to test. Japan tried to persuade Asean to adopt a common position over the newly declared air defence identification zone (ADIZ) of China. Asean refused outright to do so knowing fully well such a position would antagonise China and undermine relations. Whereas Japan, South Korea and the United States strongly rejected ADIZ, Asean has not made any common position.

The earlier version of a joint statement specified China’s action but some Asean countries strongly objected and wanted a watered-down version. Before the Asean-Japan summit, the Chinese Embassy in Tokyo reacted critically to the widely reported planned joint statement that would touch on ADIZ. In the end, Japan and Asean senior officials agreed on the term “freedom of overflight”, a general reference to free navigation of air space without necessarily referring to China.

This is the first time that Asean as a group mentioned the freedom of air travel. The joint statement says both sides will “enhance cooperation in ensuring the freedom of overflight and civil aviation safety in accordance with the universally recognised principles of international law” and standards and practices of the International Civil Aviation Organisation.

Deep down, Asean is also very anxious about China and its future plan on ADIZ. Asean members engaged in disputes in the South China Sea fear that China would declare a similar zone over those areas as it did over Diaoyu/Senkaku island. Viewed from that perspective, the joint Asean-Japan statement is aimed at sending a united massage to Beijing. Asean hopes that it will preempt China’s future actions.

Meantime, it is interesting to note that the territorial dispute between Japan and South Korea over Dokdo/Takeshima island has not yet entered Asean’s agenda. Japan-South Korea relations have deteriorated ever since both sides renewed their claims. In the past months, although there was a marked increase in public relations aimed at the Asean media, both countries appear to have no desire to engage Asean besides being used as a platform to air their views. It would further complicate Asean +3 relations if Asean takes into account South Korea’s outward rejection of the ADIZ considering that in the past two decades, Beijing and Seoul have developed very close economic cooperation.

Faced with emerging strategic rivalries and conflicts, Asean needs to maintain its neutrality and unity over the overlapping disputes among the three dialogue partners. Any bias, real or imagined, can quickly damage overall cooperation between them and Asean.

New dynamics
After the new administration in Beijing under President Xi Jinjping took office in March 2013, there have been some positive responses on the code of conduct (COC) for South China Sea from the new foreign minister, Wang Yi. Wang is considered an old Asean hand due to his 10-odd years working with the grouping in various capacities. He was instrumental in coming up with the draft on the 2002 Declarations of Conduct of Concerned Parties in South China Sea. Compared with his predecessor, Yang Jiechi, Wang is friendlier and has a better rapport with Asean leaders.

Fresh from his appointment in early April, Wang met with Asean senior officials in Beijing to reaffirm China�s desire to settle the South China Sea disputes through peaceful means. It was clear that China would go for joint development and leave the disputed territorial issues to be settled later. He also compared the much-heralded Chinese dream with the Asean dream on community-building. He said both countries have similar aspirations to build peace and prosperity for their peoples.

After the failure to issue a joint communique in July 2012 after the annual meeting in Phnom Penh, Asean’s reputation was greatly damaged. It was the first time in its 46-year-history that the member countries were unable to compromise over the text describing a regional situation—in this case, the disputes in South China Sea. The Asean chair’s inability to work with all conflicting and non-conflicting members coupling with the lack of perseverance in seeking compromise gave a valuable lesson for Brunei. During the second week of its chair, Brunei declared succinctly that one of its key objectives was to reduce tension in the South China Sea and increase trust between Asean and China. Throughout its chairmanship, Brunei has successfully carried out its mission.

A year has elapsed since Asean-China ties hit the lowest ebb. Now both sides are increasing their engagement. All top Chinese leaders have visited key Asean members. Wang himself stopped over all 10 members. At their meetings, their foreign ministers have given strong signals to begin negotiations along with the implementation of the COC.

The improved Asean-China atmosphere was also attributed to the new coordinating country, Thailand, which has close ties with China and is not a claimant. Bangkok has taken its role seriously, seeing itself as a neutral party to ascertain the COC process would progress as much as possible. A series of working groups and senior official meetings have been planned by Thailand next year.

Asean’s future role
As far as Asean’s relations with China and Japan are concerned, Asean  needs to progress over the CoC in the next 18 months while Thailand is still coordinating country. So far, Bangkok has performed its role quite satisfactory encouraging increased consultation and engagement on both sides. New joint development programmes have been initiated and future funding would be forthcoming. Thailand has already proposed a maritime conservation project and studies on tuna stock in South China.

China’s relations with Asean, especially among the new members, are strongly tied to economic-centred approaches. This trend will continue as China’s growing political clout is matched with being No. 2 global economic power. Asean must rebalance itself with major dialogue partners. This is easier said than done. At the moment, China has been the largest trading partner with Asean. Beijing is no longer shying away from providing economic and technical assistance to Asean members. Against this backdrop, Japan, which used to be the main donor and key provider of technology transfer, has revitalised its diplomacy toward Asean with additional elements concerning security and strategic relations. This is a big shift from its previous approach of focusing on economic cooperation.

Asean’s world view is quite simple: a multi-polar world with Asean serving as the pivot in the region.


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Posted on 30 December 2013 by admin

Publication Date : 31-12-2013


With global powers shifting from the West to the East, China is clearly asserting itself in world affairs in a variety of ways. On territorial disputes, Xiying Lei, a Ph.D. candidate at the Asia Pacific College of Australia National University, states that China’s strategy is to “make the outside world know that it is a ‘great power’.”

There is increased tension in North Asia, with China and Japan laying claim to the same islands — which the Chinese call “Diaoyu” and the Japanese call “Senkaku”. While it is unclear how the conflict will eventually be resolved, what is clear is that each country will not easily give up their claims to the territory which each considers under its own sovereignty, each having their own reasons why they consider the islands their own.

Both China and Korea have upped the ante by setting up separate Air Defence Identification Zones (ADIZs), while Japan has increased its military presence in the area, with the full support of the United States, which vows to defend its closest ally.

Dr. Daniel A. Pinkston, Northeast Asia deputy project director for the Crisis Group which is based in Seoul, is of opinion that concerns surrounding the overlapping ADIZs are sometimes exaggerated, and that the bureaucracies in each country may have hidden agendas and are using the defence zones to express their policy preferences.
While one reason for the great interest in the disputed islands is due to the presence of oil and other natural resources, Pinkston said that the disputes also involve other complicated issues such as economic concerns, property rights to extract resources, local politics and, to a lesser extent, security concerns.

Despite the recent announcement of China’s ADIZ, Pinkston said that the zones have in fact, been in place for decades. However, he questioned the countries’ standard operating procedures, and how the respective air forces will respond to perceived threats. They may have been set up as a safety precaution, but their true purpose depends on how the authorities and military forces manage the said zones. As of now, it seems that no country wants to â€�lose” to the other.

“Due to the emotional nature of territorial disputes, and with regards to the ADIZ issue, if one side reaches out to seek a compromise, it may be perceived as a weakness and this will become a domestic political problem,” Pinkston said.

Others are under the impression that China is flexing its muscles, while the United States views this as a threat to its own global influence. To this effect, US President Barack Obama has said that he will increase focus on Asia, while Vice President Joe Bidenâ��s recent visit to the region reaffirmed the US�™ commitment to its allies and its desire for peaceful resolution to the existing conflicts.

What is the basis for each territorial claim?

According to Dr Lowell Bautista, a lecturer at the Australian University of Wollongong’s School of Law, Humanities and the Arts, China’s claims of sovereignty over the entire South China Sea is based on its historical records.

“China’s primary anchor for its claims is based on the principle of discovery from historical records dating as far back as 200 B.C. It also refers to the񎥟 Treaty between France and China which delimited the territories of China and Vietnam, which was then a French protectorate,” he said.

However, Bautista added, while it cannot be denied that the Chinese were the first to discover the South China Sea islands, it cannot provide enough evidence of effective, peaceful and continuous occupation (of the said islands).

Fabrizio Eva, a Professor of Political and Economic Geography at the University Ca’ Foscari Venice, Treviso campus, said the issues have been further complicated by juridical acts that led to the official restitution of the islands by the US to Japan in the early 1970s. Additionally, the Japanese government had bought the islands from a Japanese private owner in 2012. Since that purchase, China has stepped up in its response.

�€œChina was particularly hostile toward Japan in September 2012. While both sides have not shown any dramatic reaction since, the hostility continues,” said Shohoko Goto, Northeast Asia Associate at the Wilson Centre in Washington DC.

Japan’s position
Highlighting Japan’s role, Goto explained that Japan’s official stance remains that there is “no dispute, because the Senkaku islands belong to Japan. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that conflict exists between Japan and China over the islands��.

Seong-hyon Lee, a fellow at Stanford University’s Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Centre has a similar conclusion: “China feels that it is actually Japan who changed the status quo of the territorial dispute in 2010, when Japan decided to nationalise the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands. China has since been trying to enter into dialogue with Japan, but the latter has been rejecting this request on the grounds that ‘there is no dispute because the islands belong to Japan, and there is nothing to discuss’.”

Unsurprisingly, such statements have not been well received by the Chinese. Chinese English newspaper China Daily responded with a fiery editorial. The following is an excerpt from the article published on Dec 4, 2013: “If the US is truly committed to lowering tensions in the region, it must first stop acquiescing to Tokyo’s dangerous brinkmanship. It must stop emboldening belligerent Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to constantly push the envelope of Japan’s encroachments and provocations.”

China’s position
It is becoming increasingly obvious that China is asserting itself more and more on the international stage in a more brazen and confident manner. With a robust economy, especially in comparison to the financial problems faced by the West, China is seen by many as vying for a greater role in global affairs with equal footing to other countries. The World Bank stated that in 2012, China’s gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 7.3 per cent whereas the US only saw a growth of 1.3 per cent.

“If any country, no matter how strong or powerful that country is, dares to challenge China, Chinese people and its government will not hesitate to use all our resources to defend our sovereignty. This was made clear through events such as the 1962 Sino-Indian war, in 1969 in the Sino-Soviet border conflict, and the 1979 Sino-Vietnam war,” Lei said. 

Nevertheless, the role of the US remains, as Bautista puts it, “the principal underwriter of strategic stability in the region”.

He said China’s interests must be kept in check. “The strong and unequivocal protesting of other states is needed to counterbalance and curb China’s increasingly assertive actions—especially those that challenge international legal norms. The international community as a whole has a moral responsibility, not just to maintain peace, order and stability, but to ensure that international law is observed and respected.”

Bautista emphasised that a coming “Asian century” without a benevolent, international law-abiding superpower will not augur well for the world.

Eva said that it is difficult to predict what China’s next steps will be. Based on observation, their trend is to move slowly but constantly toward their goals, he said.

â€�It is undeniable that China is pushing to be a more geopolitically symbolic presence on the international stage. The oversized military presence of the US and its many mutual defence agreements with its allies in the Pacific Rim is most probably China’s secret goal,” he explained.

China’s response to other claims
Even though it claims that it is willing to discuss the territorial disputes on a bilateral basis, China has shunned attempts by multilateral organisations such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and the United Nations to lend aid in dealing with the said conflicts.

Pinkston, however, sees this approach by China as well as its emphasis on bilateral dealings, as a paradox.

“Two decades ago, after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, there was a strong consensus in China for a multi-polar world. Though many Chinese were looking forward to this, it did not materialise immediately for them,” he said.

He said that as much of the world has moved towards a multi-polar system, new rules should be made on a multi-lateral setting, taking into consideration all parties involved.

He suggested that a possible solution would be to set up an ad-hoc regional institution and working group to address such issues and concerns, as this would improve ease of communication and increase transparency.

“Dialogues will reduce the risk of an accidental or even intentional clash, whether in the air or at sea,� he said. 

As there are technical issues involved, there is also a need for specialists’ opinions during discussions on the disputes, such as the ADIZ issue.

Nevertheless, Pinkston reiterated, this is a complicated issue that also involves public opinion, which if not controlled, may cause the entire process to backfire.

“Most people want to avoid conflict and military clashes, even hawkish politicians and country leaders,” he said.

America’s role
US Vice President Joe Biden’s visit in November 2013 placed the spotlight once again on the US’ attempt to defuse the conflict between China and Japan. While he was warmly welcomed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Japan, his trip also highlighted the contentiousness of the issue and China’s unwillingness to compromise.

Stanford University’s Lee expressed his pessimism over the US’ involvement in this conflict. “China has been somewhat successful in portraying itself in relation to the US as a ‘new type of major power�€™. But the underlying tone is simply that the US should not mess with China’s core interests in East Asia, just as China will respect the US��� core interests.

“To this logic, China has been pretty forceful in its assertion to the US that the territorial and ADIZ issues are a matter between China and Japan, and that the US should stay out of it.

“Based on Bidenâ��s visit to China, I get the sense that Washington appears to be cowing under Beijing’s weight, such as China’s refusal to grant American journalists visas. With this, the US seems to have run out of effective cards to deal with China,” he concluded.

Another reason why the US is unable to be directly and actively involved in the disputes may be because of its debt of over US$17 trillion.

Even if Washington wants to reinstate its influence in the region, Goto questioned whether it is financially able to do so. Still, the cost US may have to bear for relinquishing strong ties with long-time allies such as Japan and the Philippines, would be far greater.

Possible solutions and moving forward
There is no clear solution to the issues at present, and all parties concerned should take a “wait and see” approach, Pinkston said. At the same time, they ought to seek common ground in order to avoid unfortunate outcomes. Nevertheless, he is optimistic that the issues will not escalate into military conflict.

“There is too much to lose. A derailment of economic cooperation will be extremely costly, not just for the parties involved, but for everyone in the region.”

He opined that the respective leaders know that their length of stay in office is determined in a large part by their performance in handling the economy. “A security crisis will not look good on them. Therefore it makes more sense to find a peaceful outcome that is acceptable to all. We will just have to wait and see how things unfold.

Goto said the first step would be to acknowledge the issue, but as of now, neither Tokyo nor Beijing have initiated summit meetings despite both experiencing leadership changes over the past year. “Lack of communication is definitely not helping the situation,�€ he said.

Bautista believes that China knows the power of global public opinion, as well as the supremacy of international law and the rule of law.
“China has always been keen on portraying itself as a peaceful, benevolent, rising global power. Unfortunately, the world seems to think otherwise. However, it is not too late for China to mend its global image. The truth is, it is not in China’s long-term strategic interests to be overly aggressive in handling its maritime and territorial disputes.”

Regardless, the mutual consensus seems to be that neither party wishes to see the tensions escalate. Although a great deal of rhetoric has been dished out by all sides, they have shown a lot of restrain. 

The best solution would be for China and Japan to engage in dialogue sometime in the near future, and in doing so, reach a compromise so as to avoid any military clashes or aggression, which will undoubtedly have a large impact on the global community and economy.


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Posted on 30 December 2013 by admin

Publication Date : 31-12-2013


Since the Japanese government’s “purchase” of parts of China’s Diaoyu islands last September, relations between Japan and China have continued to sour. Tensions between the two escalated after a Japanese warship and military plane flew into an on-going naval exercise conducted by China in the open sea of the West Pacific.

The intrusion is deemed as a dangerous provocation that might lead to immediate military confrontation. Every country is entitled to hold military drills on the open seas, and ships and planes of other countries are advised to stay out of the exercise area. When holding naval exercises, the country concerned should consider other countries’ navigational freedom and make sure that foreign vessels and planes are well informed. However, the country retains the right to send up a flare or even eject the foreign vessels and planes if they refuse to leave the area.

China has made known its naval exercise areas to international maritime organisations, in accordance with international customs.
However, during the Chinese navy exercise, Japan’s military vessel and reconnaissance aircraft remained in the zone for an undue length of time. Ignoring a warning from the Chinese authorities, they continued to monitor  China’s activities from a close distance, disrupting the naval drill. This act by Japan is seen as a severe violation of international law and practice.

For decades, Japan has been aspiring to become a “normal country”, one that can regain clout not only with a revived economy but also with a full-fledged military. In the eyes of Japanese politicians, the need to gain the status of a â��normal country” seems particularly urgent in the context of Washington’s strategic rebalancing toward the Asia-Pacific, the prolonged tensions over regional territorial disputes, and also the new arms race in Asia. Japan is counting on the US’ wish for it to play a bigger role in the region as an ally. China’s rapidly growing strength and its firm stance over the Diaoyu islands is also being drummed up by Japan as an excuse to further boost its military capabilities.

There has been resistance at home and beyond as Japan inches toward revising its pacifist constitution and establishing a full-fledged military. To overcome this resistance,  Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his supporters are overplaying external threats. The recent intrusion of the Japanese warship and military plane into China’s drill zone is just a part of Tokyo’s long-standing pattern of provoking and stirring up trouble to fan the flames of nationalist sentiment at home and seek support for its military buildup.

Such acts based on self-interest will do no good to regional stability. It is in the fundamental interests of both sides to ease the tension, and improve and stabilise bilateral ties by adhering to the principles and spirit enshrined in the four political documents between China and Japan.

To this end, it is all the more essential to realise that the souring of bilateral ties is not simply because of the territorial dispute. Given the complexity of the issues, the two countries will not be able to come up with any quick fix and thus should remain coolheaded and seek a viable solution in the long run.

Tokyo should withdraw from its conspiracy of playing up the islands dispute and broaden its perspective on bilateral ties. After all, the overall interests of the bilateral relations lie in their interdependency especially on the economic front. And it is of mutual benefit for the two countries to shelve the dispute over the Diaoyu islands and seek cooperation in other areas.

Japan should also understand and respect China’s maritime needs. The 30-plus years of reform and opening-up have equipped China with the economic foundation and technological conditions needed for its maritime development, which remains rather backward. The country’s maritime activities, including its naval drills, will increase in frequency, though still not comparable with the many drills conducted by Japan and the United States—and Tokyo should be aware of that.

Moreover, considering that bilateral tensions have escalated from the level of maritime law enforcement to military confrontation, the two countries should set up a bilateral maritime emergency management mechanism. They should also standardise the notification system to inform each other of their major maritime activities, so as to enhance communication and avoid more misunderstandings and miscalculations.

The resumption of the Sino-Japanese maritime consultation and negotiation process is also of great necessity. Beijing and Tokyo reached a principled consensus on the East China Sea issue in June 2008 through consultations on an equal footing. However, they stalled after the detention of a Chinese trawler captain by the Japanese coast guard in the contested waters in 2010.

Of course, even with the resumption of the process, bilateral differences will persist and they will find it hard to reach a consensus. Still, the resumption of bilateral negotiations will be a key step toward easing tension over the islands and boosting mutual trust.

China, meanwhile, should attach great importance to its policy toward Japan. China surpassed Japan in nominal gross domestic product (GDP) in 2010, and after three more years of development, the country has gained a competitive edge over Japan not only on the economic front but also in many other areas. Japan remains pessimistic about the future of its economy. Today these feelings have gone from bad to worse because of its rising neighbour, which is likely to undermine the development of bilateral ties. That is why China must accurately define bilateral relations and analyse Japan’s role and influence in the process of China’s peaceful development.

China’s rise is inevitable, and Beijing should promote the fact that its rise is peaceful, to dispel the concerns of other countries, including Japan. It is equally important to enhance communication and consultation with Washington, as it plays a key role in influencing Japan’s policy initiatives, and hence can make efforts to prevent a military clash between China and Japan.

The author is director of the Centre for China Marine Strategy Studies, Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences.


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Posted on 30 December 2013 by admin

Publication Date : 31ᆠ-2013


China’s recent establishment of the East China Sea Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) and the announcement of aircraft identification rules for the zone have received a mixed response.

Although the majority of foreign airlines and civil aviation officials from other countries have said they will abide by the rules, some countries that have had a head start in establishing their own air defence identification zones are being the “pot that called the kettle black”.

Not content with thinly disguising itself as a mere onlooker in East Asian issues, Washington has gone from badmouthing China, to deliberately challenging the rules by sending a pair of B-52 bombers into China’s newly established ADIZ without first informing China of the flight. Aircraft from the Republic of Korea and Japan soon followed suit. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe even said China’s move is a dangerous act that might invite an “unexpected situation” and urged China to scrap its plan.

When setting up their air defence identification zones decades ago, and after many of their allies established theirs, Washington and Tokyo did not voice the concerns they are now bringing up. In what way can they justify their own zones while criticising China for establishing its ADIZ? Obviously, the US is applying double standards well beyond the anti-terrorism arena, and Tokyo as its ally is following on its heels.

In stark contrast to the accusations from Washington and Tokyo, China’s establishment of an ADIZ can ensure the transparency of flights and maintain flight order in the zone, and further prevent misunderstandings and miscalculations. It is unfair to blame China for adopting an internationally common practice.

An ADIZ, as an area of airspace established by a coastal state beyond its territorial airspace, is designated to identify and monitor aircraft entering the zone. Such zones, simply put, are part of a country’s security early warning system, which was initiated by the US and Canada in the 1950s amid the East-West military confrontation.
ADIZs now surround much of North America, and more than 20 countries and regions, including Japan, South Korea and the Philippines, have established such zones. Rules for the zones vary from country to country, but all have the same defensive nature.

Although countries retain the right to identify and monitor foreign aircraft entering their respective ADIZs, they do not deny aircraft entry. They will only intercept and eject aircraft that violate their rules or pose a security threat.

The ADIZs of other countries were established in the name of safeguarding national security and are defensive in nature. But when China establishes its first ADIZ, it suddenly becomes “unnecessarily inflammatory”, “destabilising” and “dangerous” and invites an “unexpected situation” in the eyes of some. The abrupt change fits into the pattern of Washington’s double standards and Tokyo is only too happy to dance to Washington’s tune.

Although international laws have neither clear stipulations nor prohibitions about ADIZs, in theory, the establishment of such a zone is in line with the principles and spirit of international laws, and most countries accept or acquiesce in them. Article ȓ of the United Nations Charter recognises a country’s inherent right of self-defence against an armed attack. The Convention on International Civil Aviation recognises that every state has complete and exclusive sovereignty over the airspace above its territory. Based on that, the country is entitled to defend its territorial airspace from foreign intrusion.

Defending territorial airspace, however, should not be limited to imposing restrictions on entry. The moderate extension of early warning and precautionary capabilities, beyond the territorial airspace can greatly improve a country’s response to any threat. Besides, beyond a coastal country’s territorial sea are the contiguous zone and exclusive economic zone, and these areas are not equal to open seas where there is unrestricted access. Likewise, a coastal country should have the right to monitor the space adjacent to and beyond the outer edge of its territorial airspace.

Such a right is not exclusive to just a few countries and regions. China has the same right as any other country to establish an ADIZ. This is particularly important in the context of rapid progress in military technologies and weaponry across the world.

The security landscape facing China and beyond is undergoing profound changes, and China is definitely not the only one with growing security concerns. Its southeastern region, for instance, is one of the country’s most developed areas, and the airspace above comprises the country’s key strategic pathway. Without an ADIZ over the East China Sea this region would be vulnerable to security risks via the airspace over Shanghai and neighbouring coastal regions. Like the previously established ADIZs of other countries, China’s was established for defence and is not directed against any specific country or target.

Undeniably, China’s ADIZ over part of the East China Sea overlaps that of Japan, and that is what makes it all the more important for both sides to face squarely the question of how to avoid potential conflicts and collisions in their respective monitoring operations. It should be noted that although ADIZ extends beyond a country’s territorial airspace, it should not intrude upon the territorial airs pace of other countries.

Japan included the Diaoyu islands when it established its ADIZ 44 years ago. The inclusion of the Diaoyu islands in China’s air ADIZ should have prompted Tokyo to reflect upon its mistake. However, instead of doing so, Tokyo is urging Beijing to withdraw its plan and playing the alarmist. That should sound the true alarm about regional stability.


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Posted on 30 December 2013 by admin

Publication Date :ಟ-12-2013


“Politically cold and economically cool.”

The People’s Daily, an organ of the Chinese Communist Party, has referred to relations between Japan and China this way since the Japanese government nationalised some of the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea last year. This indicates that the Chinese believe bilateral relations are in the freezer, while economic exchanges have begun to chill.

In an indication of how chilly political interactions are, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi did not exchange greetings when they attended the UN General Assembly a few months ago, even though they were in the same room.

On the other hand, there are signs of an upturn in bilateral economic relations. Japan’s exports to China rose 4.8 per cent in June from a year earlier, marking the third straight monthly year-on-year increase.
Japan’s direct investment in China has grown despite the nationalisation of three Senkaku islets, with total investment during the January-June period this year, up 14.4 per cent from the first half of last year. During the same period, global investment in China rose only 4.9 per cent.

The two countries are inseparably bound to each other.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is exploring ways to improve relations by emphasising this point.

When questioned by a foreign reporter at a press conference in New York in September on the future prospects for bilateral relations with China, Abe stressed: “I intend to advance Japan-China relations by returning to the principle of a mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests, in which both countries manage the relationship so that individual issues do not affect overall relations.”

Nonetheless, the real state of affairs is that no matter how hard the Japanese search for ways to improve the bilateral relationship, China may be unwilling to do so.

When Abe came into contact with Chinese President Xi Jinping during the Group of 20 summit talks in St. Petersburg on September 5, Xi grasped Abe’s hand and appeared to mumble something for a while and then uttered a few words. According to a source close to Abe, the words “were essentially the same as the official views usually expressed by a spokesperson of China’s Foreign Ministry concerning the Senkaku issue”.

Taking over in November last year, the Xi administration is making an effort to solidify its power base at home, including its grip on the military. These efforts include the trial of Bo Xilai, a former Politburo member and Chongqing city party leader convicted of bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power, and the corruption probe into officials of a state-run oil company linked to former Politburo Standing Committee member Zhou Yongkang, who reportedly supports Bo.

If the Xi administration was seen to compromise with Japan over the Senkaku issue, particularly when it is in such a delicate situation, it could be exposed to harsh public criticism, possibly allowing opposition forces to undermine the administration.

Such a concern could be a factor behind Xi’s official view of the Senkaku issue. Since Japan’s nationalisation of some of Senkaku Islands, China has tried to change the status quo by having its government vessels repeatedly intrude into Japan’s territorial waters around the Senkakus.

In the backdrop of the move was then Chinese President Hu Jintao’s power struggles with Jiang Zemin, former general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, who supported Zhou and other anti-Hu elements. It was thus considered unavoidable for Hu to take a hard-line stance against Japan.

As long as Chinese domestic political circumstances are involved, a dramatic turn for the better in resolving the Senkaku issue is seen as highly unlikely. It can thus be argued that it is “China that is in a fix in relation to the issue, so Japan shouldn’t feel impatient”, as a senior Japanese foreign ministry official put it.

A high-ranking government official close to Abe said it is “advisable for Abe to remain composed despite China’s provocations, while making appeals at home and in the global community that Japan is ready for dialogue”.

However, it is also of critical importance that Japan be prepared for any possible contingency.

The Japan Coast Guard is scheduled to establish a surveillance and patrol system comprising 12 large patrol vessels before the end of fiscal 2015. The Defence Ministry plans to bolster reconnaissance and patrol arrangements with the help of airborne warning and control systems and E-2C early warning aircraft. It also plans to adopt Global Hawk drones in the future.

A government expert panel on restructuring the legal foundation for national security has included its agenda for discussion measures to cope with a minor degree of confrontation that falls short of being classified as military attacks. This is because the Advisory Panel on Reconstruction of the Legal Basis for Security bears in mind “a situation in which the Senkaku Islands are occupied by armed Chinese fishermen”.

After emphasising the need for a return to the “mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests” with Beijing at a Septemberಛ press conference, Abe said, “Japan’s door is always open, and I hope that China will adopt the same attitude”.

The ongoing war of nerves with China over the Senkakus is expected to go unabated.

A “mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests” is a concept under which Japan and China cooperate with each other in various fields, particularly in political and economic affairs, and obtain mutual benefits from establishing such a relationship.

As Japan-China relations soured over historical issues during the administration of then Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, his successor Shinzo Abe proposed the concept during his visit to China in October 2006, a suggestion that was accepted by then Chinese President Hu Jintao.

When Hu visited Japan in May 2008, a Japan-China joint statement about comprehensive promotion of mutually beneficial relations, which was signed by Hu and then Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, listed specific measures they would take to build such a relationship.
They included “The two sides…are not threats to each other”, and “Work together to make the East China Sea a ‘Sea of Peace, Cooperation and Friendship’”.

A certain degree of success was achieved between Japan and China, who had been in conflict over the development of natural gas fields in the East China Sea. In June 2008, Japan and China agreed on joint development in sea areas that straddle the median line between the two countries.


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Posted on 30 December 2013 by admin

Publication Date :ಟ-12-2013


How can Japan untangle the row with China over the Senkaku Islands?

Ever since some of the islands were brought under state ownership last year, some Japanese politicians and intellectuals have asserted support for filing a case with the International Court of Justice in The Hague. 

Toru Hashimoto, coleader of Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) is one such advocate. Hashimoto, who also is a lawyer, wrote on Twitter, “The most effective method is to use the ICJ. If the Senkaku issue is brought to the ICJ, all we have to do is to defeat China completely. But remember, this fight must be conducted verbally at the court.” 

Arguments in favour of turning to the ICJ were based on the assumption that Japan’s assertions would be endorsed by the court. This approach also has the advantage of demonstrating Japan’s policy of attaching great importance to the rule of law to the international community. 

But going to the ICJ could be a double-edged sword. 

The official government position is that the Senkaku Islands are clearly an inherent part of Japanese territory “in light of historical facts and based on international law”. If Japan takes the case to the ICJ, despite the fact Japan wields effective control of the islands and there is no territorial dispute requiring legal resolution, there is a risk that the international community might assume the Japanese government has admitted the “the right of possession of the Senkaku Islands remains undecided”.

A senior official of the Foreign Ministry warned, “Even if Japan presses China to resolve the issue at the ICJ, China will use this to its advantage, arguing, ‘Now that Japan has admitted a territorial dispute exists, it should comply with our request to hold bilateral talks on the matter.’

“This approach would benefit China unilaterally. For us, it’s a stupid option that has no benefit, and, instead, could impose tremendous harm on Japan.”

Meanwhile, some government officials say they could accept China taking the issue to the ICJ. They believe that if China claims a territorial dispute exists over the Senkakus, the onus will be on Beijing to prove this assertion.

Shotaro Yachi, the diplomatic policy brains of the Abe administration and special adviser to the Cabinet, said in a symposium in Tokyo in March, “I’m considering an option of proposing to China that it brings the case before the ICJ to hear a fair judgment there”.

Nevertheless, it seems China has no intention of seeking a ruling by the ICJ.

Sakihito Ozawa, Diet Affairs Committee chairman of Ishin no Kai, visited Beijing on September 12 to meet with Tang Jiaxuan, a former State Council member and chairman of the China-Japan Friendship Association. Tang was unbending on China’s position on the Senkaku issue.

Ozawa said: “The two nations hold differences of opinion on this matter. So I suggest that China bring the case to the International Court of Justice.” Tang was quoted as replying, “The matter should be resolved between the two countries.”

China’s reluctance to use the ICJ seemingly has two main causes.

“China is not confident that it will win the case,” a Japanese Foreign Ministry senior official said. “In addition, China is concerned doing so could adversely affect its sovereignty disputes with other Asian countries over islands in the South China Sea.”

China’s position is that no territorial disputes exist over islands under its control, such as the Scarborough Shoal in the Macclesfield Bank. In January, the Philippines brought a case on the shoal before the Permanent Court of Arbitration, a Hague-based intergovernmental organisation established in 1899 to provide arbitration in disputes between governments and organisations. However, China refused to participate in the proceedings.

Beijing has repeatedly criticised Tokyo’s stance that no legal dispute exists over the Senkaku Islands. Nevertheless, China has adopted a similar stance in connection with its disputes with Southeast Asian nations. A look at this example indicates that the belief “territorial disputes can be resolved if brought to an international court” is nothing but an illusion.

When it comes to territorial issues, the definitive point is which country has effective control over the land. So whether Japan can maintain its control of the Senkaku Islands is the key to this issue.


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Posted on 30 December 2013 by admin

Publication Date : ǿ-12-2013


In the midst of the East Sea flowing between Korea and Japan, a set of islets embraces flocks of migratory birds and greets ferries carrying tourists under the escort of the coast guards.

But the serene, windswept outcrops, called Dokdo in Korea and Takeshima in Japan, have been a perennial flashpoint in the two countries’ relations due to Tokyo’s decades-old territorial claim interwoven with their checkered history.

The easternmost islets of Korea boast ample fishing grounds and ecological values and are believed to sit on large reserves of natural gas and other resources.

Tokyo has claimed ownership over Dokdo via diplomatic and defence papers, school textbooks and other methods. It argues that Korea “illegally occupies” the volcanic isles, citing its seizure a century ago.

Seoul counters that the islands are an integral part of its territory “historically, geographically and under international law”. It does not acknowledge the existence of a territorial dispute over Dokdo, and says it is not subject to diplomatic negotiations or judicial settlement.
At the height of the 1904-05 Russo-Japanese war, Japan covertly annexed Dokdo to use as a base for communications and surveillance and intelligence on Russian naval movement in the East Sea. After winning the war, it pushed to colonise the entire peninsula. Seoul regained control over the islands after World War II.

Thus for Koreans, Tokyo’s argument is a testament that it has yet to repent for its imperial past also involving sex slavery, forced labour and other atrocities.

“To the people of Korea, Dokdo is not simply a matter of a small outcrop of rocks off its coast, but a symbol of their independence and sovereignty which it was deprived of for 35 long and painful years,” Shin Yong-ha, a professor emeritus at Seoul National University, wrote in his 1999 book, “Korea’s Territorial Rights to Dokdo”. He is president of the Dokdo Institute, an independent research group.

“In the 21st century, it will become possible to tap into its undersea and underground resources. It may provide a base point for an exclusive economic zone and extend the Korean territorial waters to 200 nautical miles (370 kilometres). Thus its potential value in the future may not be insignificant,” Shin said.

Geography history
Dokdo mainly consists of the East and West islets, which are about 200 metres apart and surrounded by 89 smaller reefs. It is safeguarded by a small batch of coast guards and has only two civilian residents, Kim Seong-do and Kim Sin-yeol.

The island belongs to Ulleung County, North Gyeongsang Province. It is located 49 nautical miles southeast of Ulleungdo and 86 nautical miles northwest of Japan’s Okinoshima, spanning about 186,120 square metres.

On a clear day, Dokdo is visible to the naked eye from Ulleungdo. With the two islands’ geographical proximity, Dokdo has historically been deemed a part of Ulleungdo.

While recent research suggests that people had lived on Ulleungdo since the prehistoric era, earlier records point to Korea’s centuries-long control over the two islands.

In 512, a tribal state of Usan-guk, which is what is now Ulleungdo and Dokdo, was conquered by the ancient Korean empire of Silla (B.C. 57-A.D. 9ȃ), according to Samguk Sagi, which traces the history of the Three Kingdoms also including Goguryeo (B.C. 37-A.D. 668) and Baekje (B.C. 18-A.D. 660).

The Sejong Sillok Jiriji, the geography section of the Annals of King Sejong’s Reign in the Joseon Dynasty (13ȼ-1897) compiled in 1454, states that Usan (Dokdo) and Mureung (Ulleungdo) are “not far apart from each other and thus visible on a clear day”.

The publication also showed that both islands were territories of Usan-guk before its subjugation by Silla, and of the Uljin prefecture in the Joseon era.

Other official and private documents carry consistent accounts. They include Goryeosa (History of Goryeo, 1451); Sinjeung Dongguk Yeoji Seungnam (Revised and Augmented Survey of the Geography of Korea, 1531); Dongguk Munheon Bigo (Reference Compilation of Documents on Korea, 1770); Man-gi Yoram (Manual of State Affairs for the Monarch, 1808); and Jeungbo Munheon Biggo (Revised and Enlarged Edition of the Reference Compilation of Documents on Korea, 1908).

Then the so-called Ulleungdo dispute during the reign of King Sukjong (1674-1720) of Joseon prompted what appeared to be the first diplomatic contact between the two countries over the islands.
In 1693, An Yong-bok and a dozen of other fishermen clashed with their Japanese counterparts while fishing and farming on Ulleungdo and were taken to Okinoshima.

Despite the Japanese fishermen’s petition, the Edo shogunate issued a directive in 1696 prohibiting all its people from crossing the border to Ulleungdo, based on the Tottori han government’s conclusion after talks with Joseon that neither Ulleungdo (then called Takeshima in Japan) nor Dokdo (then called Matsushima in Japan) was its territory.
The Japanese government had since acknowledged Korea’s sovereignty over the two islands until the Meiji period (1868–1912). This was in line with the lack of official records citing Dokdo as its territory before 1905.

Among the most prominent Japanese publications is an 1877 directive issued to the Ministry of Home Affairs by the Daijokan (Grand Council of State), then the country’s top decision-making body. In the ministry’s map attached to its earlier inquiry to the Daijokan, Takeshima (Ulleungdo) and Matsushima (Dokdo) were also shown together.

“It was confirmed through the negotiations between the old government (Edo shogunate) and the Joseon government that the two islands do not belong to our country,” the directive reads, referring to Ulleungdo and Dokdo.

“Regarding Takeshima (then Ulleungdo) and another island (most likely Dokdo) … our country has nothing to do with them.”

Deprivation and return
In 1900, Emperor Gojong (1863-1907) of the Empire of Korea 񢇩-1910 promulgated an imperial edict to rename Ulleungdo as Uldo and place Seokdo (Dokdo) under the jurisdiction of Uldo County.

In late March of 1906, a survey team from Japan’s Shimane Prefecture visited Uldo County Magistrate Sim Heung-taek and informed him of Japan���s unilateral incorporation of Dokdo. Sim sent a report to the governor of Gangwon Province the following day with the phrase “Dokdo, which is under the jurisdiction of our county”.

One month later the Gangwon governor reported the matter to the Uijeongbu. The empire’s state council and highest decision-making body soon issued Directive No. 3 to refute Japan’s claim, saying “there was no basis for such an act”.

Japan nonetheless pressed ahead, annexing not only Dokdo but also the whole Korean Peninsula afterwards.

Japan forced Emperor Gojong to sign the Korea-Japan Protocol in February 1904 to secure unlimited access to Korean territory in the heat of the Russo-Japanese War. After a chain of unequal treaties, Korea became a colony of Japan in 1910.

“Dokdo was the first Korean territory to fall victim to the Japanese aggression against Korea,” Seoul�€™s Foreign Ministry said on its website.

“It was not only an illegal act, infringing on Korea’s sovereignty over the island, but also null and void under international law.”

With Japan’s defeat in World War II, colonial rule came to a close in 1945. The 쌗 Cairo Declaration by three Allied Powers��the US, Britain and China—stipulated Japan’s unconditional surrender and Korea’s independence, which was confirmed by the 1945 Potsdam Declaration.

“Japan will also be expelled from all other territories which she has taken by violence and greed,” the Cairo Declaration reads.

In addition, the General Headquarters of the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers removed Dokdo, which was also called Liancourt Rocks, from the domain of Japan’s control and administration through the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers Index Number, or SCAPIN, 677 in January 1946. SCAPIN 1033 issued five months later banned Japanese vessels or personnel from approaching closer than 12 miles (19.3 kilometres) to Dokdo.

Dokdo’s return was also reaffirmed by the Treaty of Peace with Japan in 1ᙷ, better known as the San Francisco Peace Treaty, though it singled out only three of Korea’s some 3,ዀ islands as its territory–Jeju, Geomun and Ulleung.

Never-ending feud
Despite Dokdo’s return to Korea, diplomatic rows have since erupted endlessly, with Tokyo denying Seoul’s sovereignty over the islets starting 1952.

After a series of clashes, civilian deaths and ship seizures in surrounding waters, 33 Koreans including Ulleungdo resident Hong Soon-chil formed a volunteer corps in 1953 to safeguard Dokdo from Japanese patrol and fishing boats. They carried out the mission until the Coast Guard took over in 1956 upon a parliamentary resolution, which also barred free passage of civilians.

Japan argues that a total of 328 vessels were attacked, 44 people killed or wounded and more than 3,900 detained before the 1965 normalisation of the two countries’ relations.

In 1954, the Tokyo government proposed to bring the dispute to the International Court of Justice, which Seoul rejected, calling it “nothing but another attempt at the false claim in judicial disguise”.

“Dokdo was the first Korean territory which had been made a victim of the Japanese aggression,” the Korean government said in its reply. “Now, in view of the unreasonable but persistent claim of the Japanese government over Dokdo, the Korean people are in serious doubt if Japan is repeating the same course of aggression.”

The watershed 1965 deal was the fruit of seven rounds of negotiations over the course of 13 years and eight months but failed to settle the territorial feud. As the two sides refused to budge, a senior Japanese official even suggested during talks that Dokdo be blown up.

A newly sealed bilateral fisheries agreement in 1998 put Dokdo in the overlapping section of the two countries’ exclusive economic zones.
Seoul, for its part, has established lighthouses, a radar base and facilities for docking, housing, helicopter takeoff and landing and other purposes on Dokdo since 1981 to facilitate its use and bolster control. Japan lodged a protest each time a monument or facility was erected.
A major diplomatic crisis broke out in 2005 when the Shimane Prefecture assembly designated February 22 as Takeshima Day. The move came while then Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi Junichiro visited the controversial Yasukuni Shrine and began describing Dokdo as Japan’s territory in its defence paper, and approved school textbooks falsifying the country’s imperial past.

In April 2006 then Korean President Roh Moo-hyun delivered a special message for Japan, calling Dokdo a “symbol of the complete recovery of sovereigntyâ��, and “our own soil of historic significance where 40 years of painful history is engraved vividly�€.

“We are no longer demanding renewed apologies,” Roh said. “We are asking for the cessation of actions of seeking to glorify or legitimise its unjust history, which offend Korea‘s sovereignty and the dignity of its people.”

The two nations’ ties froze further quickly. Roh recalled his ambassador to Tokyo and ceased other high-level exchanges.

Presidential visit
The neighbours’ relationship showed brief signs of a thaw after Naoto Kan of the Democratic Party became Japan’s prime minister in 2010. But in August 2012, it plunged to a fresh low with former Korean President Lee Myung-bak’s unprecedented trip to Dokdo.

The much-trumpeted visit was apparently aimed at reaffirming Seoul’s sovereignty over the islets and reining in Tokyo’s intensifying maritime assertion in the run-up to the 67th anniversary of Liberation Day on August 15, which celebrates Korea’s independence from Japanese rule.

It marked a drastic drift from the Korean government’s long-standing policy to block itself from ensnaring Japan’s ambition to advertise Dokdo a disputed area on the world stage and rally other countries behind its claim.

Tension escalated straight away, in part fuelled by Lee’s consequent call for Emperor Akihito’s apology for Japan’s colonial atrocities. 
Tokyo summoned the Korean ambassador to lodge a protest, its foreign minister and chief Cabinet secretary warned against a worsened relationship, its transport minister declared that he will visit the Yasukuni Shrine on August 15, which also marks Japan’s surrender that ended World War II. The temple venerates war dead including colonial leaders and Class-A war criminals.

Japanese Premier Yoshihiko Noda, who had refrained from going to the shrine and other moves that could provoke Korea, sent Lee a letter to express regret. He suggested an ICJ trial during a speech at the UN General Assembly, which Korea’s Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan dismissed in his own UN address later, calling it an “abuse” of the international litigation system. 

Tokyo cannot proceed with the suit because Seoul did not accept the Hague-based court’s compulsory jurisdiction when it joined the United Nations in 1991.

Lee, for his part, took much flak at home and abroad. Some scholars and even diplomats here billed the trip an irresponsible politicking of a lame-duck, nationalist leader facing a crushing defeat in the forthcoming presidential election.

Others fretted that Korea’s renewed territorial assertion may eclipse economic, cultural and tourist exchanges with Japan and multilateral strategic cooperation to end North Korea’s nuclear programme.

“Technically there’s nothing wrong with Lee as the president setting foot on Dokdo which is our territory. But he could have left the option for the future and his successors because it may be a huge diplomatic weapon that would spark far-reaching repercussions,” a Seoul official said on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter.

The event’s aftermath lasted long, despite Cheong Wa Dae’s caution against overanalysing the outing and Seoul officials defending it as a legitimate choice for the commander-in-chief.

A Japanese credit card issuer delayed the release of a new prepaid card for Japanese tourists in Korea following Lee’s trip, while a Tokyo-based broadcaster postponed the airing of a South Korea drama series.

Public sentiment soured further, driving civic groups and far-right activists to stage rallies around the two capitals. On August 15, a Korean man protesting in front of the Yasukuni Shrine was assaulted by a group of Japanese. The state-run Korea Tourism Organisation’s Tokyo office also received faxes and phone calls with threats to the safety of Korean travellers.

In October, the two countries decided not to extend the expansion of their currency swap deal, which effectively shrank from US$70 billion to $13 billion.

Prior to that incident, the two countries called off the signing of their first military pact to facilitate information sharing in June 2012 amid vehement opposition by civic groups and opposition lawmakers here.
In June 2011, the Japanese government temporarily banned its officials from using Korean Air after the flag carrier’s test flight of its Airbus A380 jetliner over Dokdo, calling it “provocative”.

To better deal with the Dokdo issue, Seoul needs to separate political and legal disputes, said Lee Chang-wee, a professor at University of Seoul Law School.

“As Japan’s claim to Dokdo is a political argument, it is not right to resolve it through the ICJ. If Korea continues to approach it as a political issue, it will be highly unlikely to refer the dispute to the ICJ,” he told a recent forum in Seoul on international law and territorial disputes.

Promotion race
The increasingly bitter diplomatic row has prompted the two Asian powers to wage advertising campaigns at home and overseas ever since, promoting their respective claims over Dokdo.

The Korean Foreign Ministry is expected to secure 6.835 billion won ($6.5 million) in Dokdo-related expenses next year, a whopping 61.4 per cent on-year increase.

The funds were first allotted in 2003 with 250 million won but have steadily risen in line with Japan�s growing territorial assertion. They will primarily be used for ads, documentaries and other forms of publicity with major consultancies, public relations agencies and domestic and international media outlets.

The ministry is working to translate its official Dokdo web site ( into 10 different languages and distribute relevant maps, books and other documents through embassies. It also supports research programmes at leading global think tanks, and hosts briefings and lectures at diplomatic academies overseas.

Tokyo’s Foreign Ministry nearly doubled its own territorial issue-related budget to 810 million yen ($7.8 million) this year from a year before and is seeking a raise to 1 billion yen for next year. It will also be used to better deal with disputes over the Senkaku or Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea claimed by China, and the Russia-administered Kuril Islands, which Japan calls the Northern Territories.

The heated competition led the two sides to trade barbs recently over each other’s release of video clips claiming Dokdo.

In its 90-second clip, Japan reiterated in nine different languages that Korea â��illegally occupies” Dokdo in breach of international law. Seoul demanded an immediate deletion, calling it an “anachronistic provocation”. It is expected to unveil the revised version of its video this month.

Japan has stepped up the claim in particular since Shinzo Abe was sworn in as prime minister a year ago, flaunting nationalist views and hawkish foreign and defence policies in the name of “active pacifism”.
In February, his administration sent a vice minister-level official to the locally held Takeshima Day event for the first time, while installing a new office responsible for territorial sovereignty policies within the Cabinet Secretariat.

With Tokyo’s rightward swing unnerving neighbours, the presidents of Korea and China, Park Geun-hye and Xi Jinping, shied away from a summit with Abe.

“The reason why we display concern over Japan’s moves is not only because of the two countries’ geopolitical, geoeconomic relationship but the prospect that if an unreflecting Japan with a history of war crimes becomes a military power, it may behave more egocentrically than any other country,” said Shin Jung-wha, a Japan expert at Dongseo University in Busan.

“Also, Japan�™s rearmament is directly connected to our future including the reunification and Dokdo issue.”

But Shin Kak-soo, Korea’s former vice foreign minister and ambassador to Japan, warned against locking the overall Japanese policy in the frame of rightist shift, stressing the need for calm responses based on national interests after a concrete review. 
�A separate approach is needed toward Japanese politicians and citizens. It is true that the Japanese society is growing conservative, but its self-consciousness about peace and prosperity nurtured through the pacifist constitution will not vanish that easily,” he wrote in a report to the East Asia Institute.


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Posted on 30 December 2013 by admin

Publication Date : ǿ-12-2013


With its unique location and formation history, Dokdo boasts ample fishing grounds, a treasure trove of untapped resources and potential for environmental, geological and cultural discovery.

Dokdo is the product of underwater volcanic eruptions of the East Sea during the Pliocene in the third phase of the Cenozoic Era, about 4.6 million to 2.5 million years ago. It is thus much older than Ulleungdo (about 2.5 million-10,000 years ago) and Jeju Island (about 1.2 million-10,000 years ago).

Dokdo’s main East and West islets were initially not divided as they are today. Throughout the time, the volcanic outcrops have been eroded by and weathered waves and winds.

Dokdo is a rare example of underwater mountain that shows its evolution, as the natural activity makes them difficult to retain their original shapes. The Environment Ministry designated Dokdo as the nation’s first geological park in December 2012 along with Ulleungdo and Jeju Island.

“The composition of igneous rocks of Dokdo and Ulleungdo are similar to each other but differs from that of Japanese volcanoes in many regards,” said Hwang Jae-ha, a senior researcher at the Korea Institute of Geoscience and Mineral Resources.

Under the islets are also believed to be large deposits of natural gas hydrates, which chiefly consist of methane. The ice-like substance is found in environments with high pressure and low temperatures such as near continental fault lines, where the gas crystallizes upon contact with cold sea water.

After Ǵ years of exploration, the state-run Korea National Oil Corp. detected the first commercially feasible natural gas layer off the coast of Ulsan in 1998. Production began in 2004 and it has since discovered two more pools in the vicinity.

For many Ulleung residents, Dokdo means their bread and butter. The surrounding waters where cool and warm currents meet form a great environment for migratory fishes such as salmon, trout, codfish, Alaskan Pollack, pacific saury and shark. The volume of catch from this area typically determines the prices of seafood in the local market.

The underwater reefs also grow kelp, brown seaweed, conch, abalone and other marine algae and seashells. In the winter squid season, the lights of fishing boats dot the East Sea every night.

Dokdo is also home to at least 107 species of resident and migratory fowls including streaked shearwater, storm-petrel and black-tailed gull, according to the Environment Ministry�s 2007-10 survey. Many of them are endangered species or only found in Northeast Asia.

It was known as the sole habitat for various plants and now extinct gangchi, a species of sea lion.

“Dokdo’s underwater vegetation is somewhat similar to those of the South Sea, Jeju Island, other tropical regions on the Northern Hemisphere and even the Mediterranean, but very unique that it can be divided into a separate ecosystem,” Kim In-kyu, a botany professor at Seoul National University said in his 1981 study.

While the island’s distinct beauty and national value entices more visitors, it poses a dilemma for the government between the needs to protect the environment and promote tourism.

Since the government opened Dokdo to the public in 2005, the number of tourists has gradually gone up. A record 225,000 people landed on Dokdo between January and September this year, up about 30 per cent from the same period a year ago and more than the some 205,000 recorded throughout last year. 

To accommodate the growing throngs of travellers, the then Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs in November 2011 unveilled plans to pump 400 billion won to set up new facilities in waters off Dokdo by 2016.

The package included a 210-metre-long breakwater, an underwater park and viewing chamber, plus a 200-metre road linking the East and West islets.

The plan was aimed at bolstering the country’s control over and facilitating access to the islets, as the current wharf can accommodate only a few vessels of around 300 tonnes at a time and is difficult to dock at in case of high seas, ministry officials said.
But the plan soon hit a snag due mainly to the conflict of interests of other involved ministries. The Cultural Heritage Administration raised the issue over environmental degradation, whereas the Foreign Ministry expressed concerns about a diplomatic friction.

To better counter Tokyo’s sovereignty claim, Seoul should focus on studying historical records and nurturing specialists in the Dokdo issue and international law, experts say.

“It is a priority for the Korean government to develop logics to refute Japan’s argument and turn them into its official position,” said Yuji Hosaka, president of Sejong University’s Dokdo Research Institute in Seoul.

“A development plan for show can not only be a waste of taxpayers’ money but also incite a diplomatic brawl,” he added, emphasizing the need for comprehensive, consistent policy.


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