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May 27, 2017

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Japan needs strategy to spread territorial assertions

The sovereignty, territories and territorial waters of Japan have continually been threatened by our neighbours.

Both ruling and opposition parties surely agree that this nation needs to make its stances widely known to the international community.

It is hoped the political parties will discuss diplomacy from this perspective during the campaigning for the July 21 House of Councillors election.

As one of its campaign pledges, the Liberal Democratic Party vowed it would strengthen the capabilities of the Self-Defence Forces and the Japan Coast Guard to defend Japan's territories and territorial waters and would wage publicity campaigns to make the nation's position, which is based on law and facts, known at home and abroad.

DPJ on the same page

The Democratic Party of Japan, too, pledged it would staunchly protect the nation's sovereignty and proactively convey Japan's assertions abroad.

These assertions correspond to a report compiled by the government's expert panel on propagation of information on territory and sovereignty at home and abroad.

The report sounded an alarm bell about the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture and Takeshima islands in Shimane Prefecture, saying the volume of information spread to other countries is minuscule, falling far short of what can be regarded as adequate.

The report also recommended the nation drastically improve its capacity to spread information in English, urging it to establish an effective publicity strategy and an appropriate system to realize this.

The delay in waging a publicity battle over the Senkaku Islands can be partly attributed to Japan's longstanding position that "there is no territorial dispute" over the islands. As it effectively controls the islands, Japan does not see the issue as a territorial dispute as China claims.

Of course, that stance should be maintained, but Japan should not lose any more time in its efforts to spread its assertions overseas.

With its wealth of funds and human resources, China is dispatching government officials and experts who assert China's stance at symposiums abroad, including the United States and European nations. Last autumn, one of China's English-language newspapers placed advertorials in U.S. and European media, asserting that the Senkakus belong to China.

South Korea is also keenly engaging in a propaganda campaign over the Takeshima islands.

Battle for World Opinion

Both China and South Korea are trying to win international opinion to their sides by making assertions not only in English but in various other languages.

To counter their moves, Japan should strategically and wholeheartedly put an overseas publicity campaign in place.

Rather than merely repeating its official stance, Japan needs to rack its brains to effectively build a logical argument to win recognition of its ownership.

Furthermore, Japan should not be seen as divided in opinion over these issues.

During his recent visit to China, former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama commented, "It can't be helped if people thought (Japan stole the islands from China)." His behavior is deplorable for someone who served as prime minister. Such a comment will fall prey to China's public relations strategy.

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