S Korea and Japan: Hopes Dashed?
|Protest outside the Japanese Embassy in Seoul (source: AP via NPR)|
Some time earlier today, a South Korean fishing boat was apparently involved with a confrontation in Japanese-controlled waters near the disputed island Takeshima (Dokdo to Koreans, Liancourt Rocks to the rest of the world). From Xinhau:
Patrol ships of the both sides began the joint investigation at around 3:53 p.m. local time in waters about 36 sea miles southeast off the disputed islets in the Sea of Japan, to find out whether a 29-ton South Korean fishing boat intruded into Japan’s exclusive economic zone, Korea Coast Guard said in a press release.
Earlier reports said a South Korean coast guard vessel have involved in a confrontation with four Japanese patrol ships as of 2:00 p.m. local time.
Seoul’s coast guard dispatched the patrol vessel to conduct joint investigation with the Japanese side after the receiving report from the fishing boat “SSangyong”, which was chased by Japanese coast guards’ ships when it was sailing in waters about 42 sea miles southeast off Dokdo earlier in the day and then sailed back toward South Korean side, the press release said.
The timing of this incident could not be worse. With Japan hoping to convince the South Koreans to strengthen military ties between the two countries, there is a chance that this incident could revive South Korean anti-Japanese passions.
Of course, it is safe to assume that the timing is no coincidence either. During the talks between Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa and his South Korean counterpart Kim Kwan-jin, a dozen protestors gathered outside the Japanese Embassy in Seoul to condem the talks. All it takes is one fervent nationalist in a fishing boat to stir up some tension, and the house of cards could all come crashing down.
It’s early days yet, and we don’t know anything about the pilot of the boat and his motives, but I know where my money lies.