27 January 2015

Fmr. Japanese Ambassador to the U.S. Ichiro Fujisaki Responds to Claims Concerning “the Abe Government’s Expansionist View” and “Territorial Revisionism” by Prof. Alexis Dudden

Words matter. Phrases such as “expansionist view” and “territorial revisionism” should not be used lightly when discussing the unfortunately painful, understandably sensitive, and fortunately not repeatable history of East Asia. It is a pity that Prof. Dudden did not place her assertions in a broader, more balanced comparative context by at least briefly mentioning the efforts of other regional nations to advance their own island and maritime claims—including by issuing official maps of their own and engaging in a wide range of other activities including deploying government forces.

The fact is that throughout East Asia, nations assert that there is a dispute concerning claimed islands that they do not control, and deny that there is a dispute concerning islands that they do control. Some would say that this is human nature; all reasonable observers should be able to agree that it’s not Japan-specific. Singling out Tokyo while ignoring others’ statements and actions is unconstructive from both a scholarly and a policy perspective.

In the interest of advancing constructive discourse, I wish to highlight a statement by Prof. Dudden that (fortunately) does not withstand logical scrutiny when viewed in a realistic context: “One fraught issue is the United States’ dual obligation, under separate security arrangements, to defend both Japan and South Korea because one could attack the other over territory they both claim.” Whatever their political differences from time to time, these two great nations and U.S. allies will not go to war with each other. Period. Guaranteed. You didn’t read it here first, because it should be obvious already. Washington, Tokyo, and Seoul have many challenges to prepare for, but this is not one of them. Whatever our normative disagreements, let’s stick to the facts and proceed in a positive manner to advance discourse more constructively on this and other important issues.

Ichiro Fujisaki, Fmr. Ambassador of Japan to the United States, “Is Japan Becoming Expansionist?Huffington Post, 24 January 2015.

There seems to be some concerns in other countries that Japan may take more expansionist stance after Prime Minster Abe regained the leadership in Japan. 

One such example is a recent opinion article of the New York Times by Professor Alexis Dudden of Connecticut University. She writes that Japan’s recent map “extends beyond Japanese internationally recognized boundaries, incorporating many islands claimed by neighboring countries” and Japan risks losing access to many of “resources because of its brinkmanship.”

We honor freedom of speech in Japan, as in the US. Anyone can make any argument on issues regarding territories or history of other countries. The important thing is that arguments should be made on factual basis. I will here state only the objective facts regarding three specific issues. …

The following is the article to which Ambassador Fujisaki is responding: Alexis Dudden, “The Shape of Japan to Come,” New York Times, 16 January 2015.