Friday, April 28, 2006

Crisis, Conflict, or Ephemera?

You Decide.
The International Crisis Group has put out a good synopsis of the state of affairs in NE Asia.  (Their pieces are nearly always good.) 
It focuses on the rise of Nationalism in Japan, Korea, and China; and the impact it is having on their relations in the region.  The flashpoint for the most recent cacophony of saber-rattling stems from territorial disputes between Japan and S. Korea over a bunch of uninhabited rocks.  There are a lot of these disputes in the Greater East Asia Region. 
  • Dokdo/Takeshima--the present problem;
  • Senkaku/Diayu--between China and Japan over rocks between Okinawa and the mainland;
  • Kuriles/Northern Territories--one of the last WWII holdovers, between Japan and Russia;
  • The "everyone wants a piece islands" Spratley Islands;
  • Probably several more I don't know about.
No one seems to be paying much attention to the increasingly boisterous posturing and rhetoric coming out of Beijing, Seoul, and Tokyo (as regard each other).  It might not make much difference over the next 5-15 years, as the current generations of leadership continue to be constrained by half-a-century of what constitutes gentility.  But when people my age start rising to power, I worry that economic considerations will start taking a back seat to the crescendoing drum-beat of nationalism, and that Asia is heading for some nasty conflicts.  This is where a strong (and deft) U.S. hand could help mitigate concerns, and negotiate settlements.
My proposal: Give all disputed territories and the surrounding exclusive economic zones as the sole purview of the Dalai Lama.  China might not like it, but at least it would give the poor guy some territory to call his own.

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