Kosovo precedent looms large in Japan-Korea land talks

By Murad Makhmudov and Lee Jay Walker | Washington’s insistence to tear up Serbia’s sovereignty looms as precedent for Japan-Korea talks on territories.

Japan and South Korea need to overcome the disputed islets between both nations because it is time to focus on the future. After all, both nations are democratic and within the “American umbrella” and nationalist forces on either side are not helping. Therefore, it is essential that joint ownership is agreed between Japan and South Korea.

If this issue remains unresolved then it is “a gift” to outside nations which may meddle into the internal affairs of either nation during a major crisis. Surely, this is not in the interest of either nation because the common ground areas should be able to overcome petty nationalism. This most notably applies to the forces of democracy, common values, cultural exchanges, influence of Buddhism and Confucianism, and other important areas whereby Japan and South Korea share much in common.

Takeshima in Japanese means bamboo islands. South Korea calls it Dokdo, which means solitary islands. The islands consist of two main islands and about 30 smaller rocks.

President Lee Myung-bak of South Korea visited the disputed region but neither political leader should do this without the consent of the other nation. It is unclear why Lee Myung-bak took this step apart from petty posturing at home because it doesn’t serve the interests of the region. Likewise, the same would be stated if the leader of Japan visited the disputed Takeshima/Dokdo area.

Japan calls the disputed islets Takeshima while South Korea states Dokdo. Yet if the disputed area is to be exploited properly for possible energy reserves, fisheries, and issues related to geopolitics; then a regional zone called Takeshima-Dokdo or Dokdo-Takeshima would serve the interests of Seoul and Tokyo much better.


The Japanese government showed its displeasure by issuing a protest to Shin Kak Soo who is the South Korean ambassador to Japan. However, Japan should note that Kosovo is being taken away from Serbia because of Washington and sadly the Japanese government shamed itself by agreeing to this. Yet given Japan’s concern over areas which it deems to be Japan, then Tokyo should think more diplomatically rather than following the party line of Washington.

In 2008 the Foreign Ministry of Japan stated about Kosovo that “On March 18, Japan recognized the Republic of Kosovo as an independent state. As the Government of the Republic of Kosovo has made its intention clear that it will run the country pursuant to the “Comprehensive Proposal for the Kosovo Status Settlement” made by the U.N. Special Envoy, Japan expects that Kosovo’s independence will contribute to the long-lasting stability of the region.”

“Japan has traditionally good relations with the Republic of Serbia and it has no intention to make its recognition of Kosovo impede the friendly relations with Serbia. Japan hopes that such friendly relations with Serbia will be continued.”

The above statement doesn’t wash when compared with Tokyo’s attitude towards Takeshima/Dokdo and the same applies to the stance of South Korea. After all, Kosovo is the cradle of Serbian Orthodox Christianity and since the period of so-called peace hundreds of Serbian Orthodox Christians have been killed, if not close to 1,000.  Yet how many Kosovo Albanians reside in jail?

More important, in areas related to important territorial flashpoints then nations must refrain from double-standards and from following the American party line. The government of South Korea also recognized Kosovo and the party line of Washington. Therefore, political leaders in Tokyo and Seoul cared little about the destruction of Serbian culture, the importance of Kosovo to Serbian history and religion, the reality that Serbians could be murdered without any justice happening and the deplorable reality that Hashim Thaci is implicated in the organ scandal.

In an article by Paul Lewis which was published in The Guardian (British newspaper) on Dec 14th, 2010, it is stated that “Kosovo’s prime minister is the head of a “mafia-like” Albanian group responsible for smuggling weapons, drugs and human organs through Eastern Europe, according to a Council of Europe inquiry report on organised crime.”

“The report of the two-year inquiry, which cites FBI and other intelligence sources, has been obtained by the Guardian. It names Thaçi as having over the last decade exerted “violent control” over the heroin trade. Figures from Thaçi’s inner circle are also accused of taking captives across the border into Albania after the war, where a number of Serbs are said to have been murdered for their kidneys, which were sold on the black market.”

Further down in the same article it states that “The report paints a picture in which ex-KLA commanders have played a crucial role in the region’s criminal activity. It says:

“In confidential reports spanning more than a decade, agencies dedicated to combating drug smuggling in at least five countries have named Hashim Thaçi and other members of his Drenica group as having exerted violent control over the trade in heroin and other narcotics.”

Marty says: “Thaçi and these other Drenica group members are consistently named as ‘key players’ in intelligence reports on Kosovo’s mafia-like structures of organised crime. I have examined these diverse, voluminous reports with consternation and a sense of moral outrage.”

Turning back to the latest spat between the two allies of Washington, then all areas related to law, history, and so forth can’t be switched off and on to suit. Neither nation showed a moral stance to the reality of Kosovo and now two allies of Washington are arguing over sovereignty – while American bases reside in both nations. Therefore, a reality check is needed and given the commonality of both nations related to democracy and Washington; then surely a more mature posture is possible whereby both agree to the joint ownership of the disputed region between Japan and South Korea.

If Lee Myung-bak wants to utilize this issue for political purposes aimed at past Japanese nationalism then this also doesn’t wash. In a past article by Modern Tokyo Times it was stated that “The first President of South Korea, President Syngman-Rhee, 1948-1960, was pro-America, despotic, and used pro-Japanese collaborators in order to control South Korea via “an iron fist.” He and the American government abided by the same ex-leaders who had sided with Japan against their own people. Therefore, the new leaders of South Korea had helped the Japanese in their anti-Korean policies.”

“The next strong leader of South Korea to emerge, after the short leadership of Yun Bo-seon, was that of Park Chung-hee (President 1963-1979). Park had a Japanese name (Takaki Masao) and he clearly did well under the Japanese colonial system. For he went to the Japanese Manchurian military academy and Park once more adopted another Japanese name, this time he was called Okamoto Minoru. Park continued to prosper during the invasion of China by Japan.”

“After all, he became a lieutenant and fought for the Imperial Japanese Army, however, it is not fully known if he led imperial troops against native Koreans. However, he was involved in the fighting in Manchuria and many Korean communists had supported China in its struggle against Japan.”

It is time for Japan and South Korea to understand that both are democratic states and clearly if they are so concerned about sovereignty then why do they allow American bases in their respective nations? Switching on and off sovereignty, just like supporting America’s stance over Kosovo, isn’t based on principles. Therefore, political leaders in Seoul and Tokyo should focus on the modern reality of both nations and the common area of interest in order to move on. It is time for both nations to set in motions whereby both agree to shared-ownership, in order for both nations to leave the twentieth century behind and to focus on modern ties which will enhance the collective security of both nations.

Japan and South Korea should also think about their approval of recognizing Kosovo and following the agenda of Washington. After all, unlike Takeshima/Dokdo, the land of Kosovo does play a powerful role within the “soul of Serbians.” This applies to Kosovo being the cradle of Serbian Orthodox Christianity. Despite this, Japan and South Korea, and many other nations, were too quick to support the tainted reality of Kosovo which is being ruled by distant Washington.