L'Ombre de l'Olivier

The Shadow of the Olive Tree

being the maunderings of an Englishman on the Côte d'Azur

11 July 2006 Blog Home : July 2006 : Permalink

Japan, the PSI & Takeshima/Dokdo

One of the fun things to do in the blogoshpere is connecting the dots. Over in the Marmot's Hole we have the (S) Korean government going in to bat on behalf of their Northern brethren and complaining about Japan. Over at the Junkyard Blog, Hot Air Austin Bay, etc. we have discussion of the "secret" Proliferation Security Initiative. And chugging along in the background at various sites we have the never ending Takeshima/Dokdo saga (e.g recent Marmot update).

Quick recap for those who have been asleep: the PSI is the international program to stop N Korea from exporting missiles and stuff like that. It ties in with a couple of other things that also stop it importing/exporting components, counterfeiting money, viagra and so on. The Japanese have said that they are considering whether a pre-emptive strike is permitted under the "self defense" part of their constitution. While it could be a bit of a stretch in most circumstances it becomes easier to justify when the nation sees missiles shooting overhead that originate in a country that routinely blames it for pretty much everything and claims to have nuclear weapons.

Sea of Japan mapOk so how does Dokdo fit in to this? well look at a map of the Sea of Japan (a.k.a. East Sea for the Koreans - not to be confused with the German East Sea a.k.a. the Baltic). On the map to the left (from wikipedia) Dokdo/Takeshima is marked as Liancourt rocks and it is,as you can see in a nice central position in the sea. It would, in fact, make an excellent forward navy base for any country who felt like blockading N Korean ports on their Eastern coast such as Wonsan or Ch'ongjin.

Of course N Korea has ports on its western coast too but Dokdo would be a great place to anchor part of a patrol route that might start in Sapporo and end up at Shimonoseki (next to Kitakyushu on the map). [The other patrol route for the south/west would involve Taiwan, Okinawa, the disputed Senkaku islands as well as Kyushu]. Now you will note here that if S Korea were a keen member of the nations that were enforcing the PSI then you wouldn't need to worry about seagull shit islands because you'd simply anchor one end of the patrol in an appropriate S Korean port (say Pohang?), but if S Korea seems keen to support its Northern neighbour then you are probably not going to be able to get Korean permission for a patrol that is intended to enforce sanctions on N Korea. Hence you need to look for alternatives and hence Japanese interest in at least passing as close to Dokdo as possible if not stopping there.

I'm really not at all clear about how this will end up, but given the recent S Korean commentary I think we could well see major stresses in the relationship between the USA and S Korea and we are already seeing extremely close cooperation between the USA and Japan. Quite where China fits into this and, for that matter Taiwan, is even more murky but it would not surprise me at all to see a major maritime alliance formed to enforce sanctions on N Korea and, as a result, a lot of incidents between Japan and the USA on the one hand and both Koreas (and China) on the other. Even if we ignore the Yellow Sea half of the equation to avoid Chinese provocation, if Japan were to agressively enforce a blockade of the western ports of N Korea I could well imagine some nastiness occuring with Japanese ships being agressively shadowed by prickly S Koreans while they attempt to interdict N Korean smugglingtrade.

I despise l'Escroc and Vile Pin