We sometimes encounter arguments in the U.S. media that nationalism is growing in Japan. The logic is that mounting frustration amongst people, stemming from continuing stagnation, is leading them to take tougher attitudes towards neighboring countries. It is interesting, but vastly exaggerated.
Here, I will not go into history to explain why it is clear that Japan has sovereignty over the islands which are now getting attention. What I would like to stress is the fact that the recent problems with our neighbors have not been started by Japan.
The three islands of the Senkaku belonged to a Japanese individual. The Japanese government had rented the land on the islands from the said individual for years to maintain and manage the islands in a calm and stable manner. Therefore, it has not allowed Japanese nationals to land except for emergencies. It has allowed no construction. In the last few years, however, it is true that concern grew as an increasing number of Chinese patrol vessels from relevant authorities and fishing vessels entered the waters adjacent to the islands, as well as our territorial waters. The reason for the Japanese government's recent purchase of the islands from the individual was to preempt the purchase by others, so as to maintain the status quo and continue to maintain and manage the islands in a calm and stable manner. Furthermore, it is to be emphasized that the purchase is a civil transaction and the change of ownership of the land legally has nothing to do with sovereignty itself.
As for relations with the Republic of Korea, the recent situations were initiated by the very first visit of its leader to the disputed islands this summer. No previous leader has done that.
Japan will continue to deal with these issues in a calm manner. We have no intention of heightening tension. There is no merit in doing so for anyone. We think what is required is to firmly register our position, restrain from making it into an emotional issue, and peacefully cope with the issues while respecting international law.
The U.S. government has repeatedly confirmed that the Senkaku islands are covered by Japan-U.S. security arrangements. Such reassurances constitute an important deterrence. For the last several decades, according to polls, around 70 percent of Japanese have always answered that the present form of defense should be maintained, where Japanese security would depend on the Self Defense Forces as well as on the US extended deterrence.
It is a truism that you cannot change your neighbors. We have to live next door to each other for the generations to come. Our economies are already closely intertwined. We are, we should and we will continue to be good friends with each other. I have recently spoken to hundreds of Japanese language school students about the importance of being good friends with youngsters of Chinese and Korean descent. The days of using force or coercion, whether military or economic, to solve disputes over land should be left in the last century. Let us not forget that we are already deep into the 21stcentury. No, Japan is not turning to the right. We will continue to go on straight.