Don’t mention the war

The Second World War is still raging.

Well bubbling along in another island dispute concerning the Kuril island chain; a grouping of volcanic islands that sit in-between Japan’s northern Hokkaido and Russian Kamchatka.

The Kuril Islands form the top part of the pacific RING OF FIRE!  The southern most mere kilometres from Hokkaido the northern most a gnats cock off of Kamchatka. The islands are currently inhabited by almost 20,000 people, mostly Russians but with some Ainu other Baltic populations. The islands are home to many Russian ‘soldiers’ known as the Border Guard Service. The islands are known for their severe weather of long stormy winters followed by short and notoriously foggy summers. It is these foggy summers and the remoteness of the islands that made them the perfect launch site for the Pearl Habour attack.

In 1855 the islands were recognised as Japanese territory. After Japan’s second world war defeat, all of its territories were occupied by the Allied forces. The Allied Powers agreed that Japan’s main islands would be under American occupation; Taiwan would fall under Chinese occupation; and that Sakhalin Island and the Kurile Islands would be occupied by the Soviet forces.

In 1951 when the San Francisco Treaty was signed the allied powers handed Japanese land back, but Russia refused to sign over the Kurils.  To this day Japan and Russia have never formalized any peace agreement, technically meaning the Second World War isn’t over.

As of 2015 Japan has been offered the southern most islands by Putin but it has refused as the offered land only counts for 7% of the disputed area.

Ushishiru Island (Yankicha in Russian)
Ushishiru Island (Yankicha in Russian)

Again, as with the Senkoku islands, this isn’t a “we miss our ancestral land!” dispute. The Kurils are surrounded by some of the most fertile fishing grounds in the North Pacific. There is also a possibility that there are oil and gas reserves. The island also has large deposits of various polymetallic ores including the rare mineral, rhenium.

In 2006, the Russian government pledged $630m to including improving energy and transport infrastructure on the Kuril island chain. The Japanese government also maintains public awareness of the dispute by allowing visits by former residents, displaced after the war to pray at their family shrines.

China is angry

Just west of Okinawa, just east of Taiwan lie the Senkaku Islands.
A grouping of small uninhabited islands that are at the centre of an international debate due to the rich deposits of oil and natural gas lie just beneath them.

The Chinese claim ancient heritage over the islands, the first record of the islands can be found in  Chinese literature dating from the 15th century. In 1895 they were annexed by the Japanese government.  There were fisheries and processing plants until the 1940s. From 1945 to 1972 the islands were under American authority. When they were handed back to Japan (with much consternation from Taiwan) the islands were then sold to a family in Saitama Ken (next to Tokyo). The family is paid “rent” by the Japanese government provided they do not develop the islands. Regardless of this agreement  a Japanese right wing party erected a Lighthouse in 1978 and a Shinto temple in 2000.

There are laws in place that prohibit boats docking on the islands and there are constant patrols to keep foreign boats out of the surrounding waters.

Leaked footage showed the Chinese trawler ramming into the patrol boat.

In 2010 a Chinese fishing boat collided with patrol boats near the islands. The captain and crew were held in custody in Japan pending possible charges, China strongly protested and the crew were released after a week. 

 

 

 

 

Speaking at a think tank forum in Washington the outspoken and generally odd Governor of Tokyo Ishiihara announced the Tokyo Metropolitan government’s plans to buy the islands from the family. 70,000 private donations were received totalling just over one billion yen (12.5 million dollars).

“Tokyo will protect the Senkaku Islands. No matter which country dislikes it, no one should have a problem…..It would be best if we could buy the islands with donations because we wouldn’t have to use taxpayers’ money”

There is talk about how the sale and purchase could be illegal and it has enraged the Chinese central government. Liu Weimin (Chinese foreign ministry spokesman) told reporters

“Some Japanese politicians have been making petty moves to try to make trouble, but their actions will not alter the fact that these islands belong to China,

The oil and gas fields are the biggest reason these islands are so coveted The fact remains that Japan has a very limited supply natural resources. Energy resources account for 14% of its total  imports and 60% of its oil is imported from the Persian Gulf.

Another reason both countries refuse to back down is the frosty relationship the countries share. Japan and China are like siblings that refuse to speak. A 2012 survey showed that almost 85% of Japanese people had a negative view of “selfish” China and 65% of Chinese had unfavourable views on “nationalistic” Japan.