10

East Asia’s Nationalist Fantasy Islands

TOKYO – They don’t look like much, those few uninhabited rocks in the East China Sea between Okinawa and Taiwan, and a couple of tiny islets in the Sea of Japan, inhabited by a few token fishermen and some South Korean Coast Guard officials. The former, called the Senkaku Islands in Japan, and the Diaoyu Islands in China, are claimed by China, Japan, and Taiwan; the latter, called Takeshima in Japan, and Dokdo in Korea, are claimed by South Korea and Japan.

These tiny outcroppings have little material value, and yet the dispute over their ownership has led to a major international dustup. Ambassadors have been recalled. Massive anti-Japanese demonstrations have been held all over China, causing damage to Japanese people and properties. Threats fly back and forth between Tokyo and Seoul. There has even been talk of military action.