Tag: territory

My Japanese Hate-Mail Tells I am a ‘S— Kimchi Propagandist’ (Hah!) …Where’s Thunderdome When You Need it?

Hollywood’s solution to intractable interstate conflicts

This is what happens when you write in the area of Japanese-Korean relations. Pretty much everybody hates you, because you don’t tell them what they want to hear, and then maximalists come out of the woodwork to, as Robert Farley aptly put it, “explore Japanese-Korean animosity one angry e-mail at a time.” As I’ve argued before, there’s little domestic cost to the either party for the most outrageous rhetoric, so this just goes on and on. Given that intractability,  the Obama administration’s big idea to untangle this – sending embarrassingly unqualified socialite donor Caroline Kennedy  to be ambassador to Japan – is cringe-worthy. So why not call Tina Turner? She’s a celebrity too. And Aunty Entity is the kind of no-nonsense external ref this conflict needs. (Bad 80s references can fix everything!) Anyway…

The other day I posted how the Korean government leaned on me to alter the nomenclature in my writing – from the ‘Sea of Japan’ to the ‘East Sea.’ I don’t exactly stand on this point. I can’t actually say for sure if I use the expression ‘Sea of Japan’ much. But now, I wouldn’t change just to oppose the highly inappropriate arm-twisting of academics by the state. And then a few days ago, I got one my most creative hate-mails (from a Japanese) in awhile. Both letters follow the jump.

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The Endlessly Fatiguing Japanese-Korean Squabbling is the Worst it’s been in Decades

rocksI am so burned out on this issue, I’m ready to say we should just nuke the Liancourt Rocks (left) to end this whole thing. But it’s everywhere now in the regional media. Park pointedly won’t meet Abe, which the Japanese media is reading as a huge snub. She even said she’d talk to Pyongyang before Tokyo (yikes!). The Japanese are getting more open in expressing loathing for Korea. The Americans are livid. And the Chinese and Norks are loving it all, I have no doubt. So here’s yet another essay on this topic. This is the English version of a long-form essay I wrote for Newsweek Korea last week.

The short, IR-ish version is that: a) S  Korea is a middle power that risks ‘overplaying its hand’ against Japan, as a think-tanker friend put it, because of the ‘moral hazard’ facilitated by the American alliance (as Katzenstein noted long ago, Japan is the US anchor state in Asia, and Koreans can’t change that no matter how much they resent that special relationship); b) the Americans believe in the democratic peace and simply don’t accept that Japan is some kind of proto-fascist state (this is a real breakpoint with the Americans); and c) Korean geography basically traps it in a ‘balance of threat’ quandary: even though it is small, its proximity means it will get pulled into the Sino-US/Japan stand-off whether it likes it or not. The only possible way out I can think of for Korea is unilateral nuclearization (more yikes). Also, my continuing skepticism of the pivot pops up. I still don’t think Americans actually care enough about Asia to really get pulled into a major competition with China. Here’s that essay…

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The Post-1979 ‘Asian Peace’ & Economic Miracle are Probably Connected

Newsweek 3rd coverNewsweek Japan asked me to write an introductory essay for a special issue on tension in Northeast Asia. Basically I plea not to throw out all the remarkable growth of the last 35 years in an orgy of nationalism. It’s almost certain that the post-79 Asian peace was a necessary condition for simultaneous economic growth. So fighting over some empty rocks (Liancourt Rocks, Pinnacle Islands) is a terrible idea. And for IR, I think the current Sino-Japanese tension is a good test of the old liberal hypothesis that economic interdependence encourages peace. It’s fascinating to watch China especially try to figure out just how much economic gain to forego to push Japan over the Pinnacle Islands. Here we go:

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Territoriality and Beyond

Stacie Goddard has a guest post at the IR Blog promoting her new book, Indivisible Territory and the Politics of Legitimacy:

In international relations, territory often appears indivisible: actors are unable to divide territory through negotiation, shared sovereignty, compensation, or other mechanisms of division… As the site of competing national and religious claims, it may seem little wonder that Jerusalem, Northern Ireland, Kashmir and Taiwan are indivisible; how could it be any other way?… It’s exactly this conventional wisdom that this book attempts to challenge.My central argument is that indivisible territory is a social construct: far from being inevitable or inherent to territory, indivisibility is a contingent outcome, one that is very much the product of human action. When bargaining over territory, politicians engage in a contentious legitimation process: in making their claims to territory, actors use rationales that explain why their territorial demands are legitimate.

As elites attempt to outbid each they are likely to turn to rhetoric—what I call “legitimation strategies”—that will give them an advantage over their opponent. Politicians use rhetoric that will build support at home. They turn to language designed to coerce their opponent into accepting their demands. In most cases, these politicians are not trying to instigate violent, intractable conflict—they are simply using whatever legitimation strategies help them further their own political interests. But once used, legitimation strategies can have unintended consequences. Most notably, a politicians’ choice of rhetoric can lead to lock-in effects: by resonating with some actors and not others, legitimation strategies can trap actors into bargaining positions where they are unable to recognize the legitimacy of their opponent’s demands. When this happens, actors come to negotiations with incompatible claims, constructing the territory as indivisible.

Viewed in this way indivisibility is tragic, but hardly inevitable: how actors choose to legitimate their interests can either create or destroy the possibility of dividing territory. The book traces this process through two significant cases of indivisible conflict: Ulster (and then Northern Ireland), and Jerusalem.

I haven’t read the book yet, but reading the short description made me think of another paradox of territoriality and conflict: the myth that love of indivisible territory must lead to conflict obscures not only the menu of valid political choices for resolving political claims by dividing territory, as Goddard argues, but also the ways that the indivisibility of territory can be used to dampen conflict and promote nonviolent conflict resolution. It is often common love of place-ness that binds people together in civic nationalist communities. The Bosnian city of Tuzla, for example, managed to avoid major ethnic clashes during the war in ex-Yugoslavia because its mayor promulgated, and its citizens espoused, a view that its people are citizens of the same city rather than members of distinct ethnic or nationalist groups. So I think the relationship of territorial myth and identity to conflict outcomes is quite complex. I look forward to reading Goddard’s contribution.


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