Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda in a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday announced Tokyo's decision to refer the question of sovereignty over Dokdo to the International Court of Justice. The Cabinet also discussed President Lee Myung-bak's visit to Korea's easternmost islets, as well as his call on Japan's emperor to apologize for the occupation of Korea, and apparently looked into retaliatory measures including the creation of a separate government agency to deal specifically with Dokdo issue and blocking Korea's bid to become a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council.
Japan's aggressive response contrasts with the way it deals with Russia and China, which are involved in bona fide territorial disputes with Japan. In November 2010, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev visited Kunashir, one of the four disputed islands in the Kuril archipelago, which is under Russian jurisdiction. Japan claims the two southernmost islands as part of its territory. After becoming prime minister, Medvedev again visited Kunashir in July this year. In response, Japan two years ago replaced the Japanese ambassador to Russia and this time it merely issued a complaint.
On Aug. 15, 14 Chinese citizens of Hong Kong landed on the Senkaku or Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea to stress China's sovereignty over them. Japan arrested them but sent them back to Hong Kong without taking any legal action. Two years ago, a Japanese patrol boat collided with a Chinese vessel and arrested the ship's captain, but when China took economic retaliatory steps, Japan hurriedly released him without even putting him on trial. Japan appears to have returned the 14 Chinese activists this time as well because it fears Beijing’s retribution.
Russia is of course the world's second-largest military power, while China has emerged as the world's largest economy. The Noda administration, with only a 20-percent approval rating, is too weak to stand up to Russia and China, so it is venting its frustration on Korea to win more votes at home.
In the face of all common sense, Japan's ruling Democratic Party is seeking to pass a resolution that condemns Lee's comments about Emperor Akihito as "rude and unacceptable." No parliament in the world has ever passed a resolution in peacetime denouncing the comments of the leader of another country as "rude."
Tokyo's grandstanding does not end there. A car parade was held in Tokyo on Monday welcoming the Japanese medalists from the London Summer Olympics, and a crowd of 500,000 gathered to greet them. This shows the extent to which Japanese politicians have succeeded in creating nationalistic fervor there. Japan's latest steps make it hard to believe whether it has learned any lessons from its last 100 years of history.