By Michael Stevens
Most foreigners, when looking at the issue of the Dokdo islets, can't really understand what all the fuss is about. Why would anyone be fighting over two relatively small rocks in the middle of the sea, since on the surface these islands have no significant sign of importance?
They have really no military value and have no natural resources such as fresh water or even trees. There is also the fact that no one lives there outside a small police force that is basically forced to be stationed there by the Korean government. Yet, each year Japan says or does something that inflames Korea to once again start demanding the world recognize its sovereign claims to these two insignificant rocks in the middle of nowhere.
Is this just a matter of national pride for Korea or are there underlining circumstances that most outsiders just don't comprehend. My guess is that for the majority of Koreans that go to work each day or who live their life like the rest of us, the issue of the Dokdo islets is a matter of nationalistic pride.
This is understandable since as one Korean-American put it, how would America feel if Canada started claiming American territory as its own. Despite the fact that this may sound totally irrational to most of us, this is exactly what is happening to Korea, one of its neighbors has come in and laid claim to something that has historically been Korean territory for hundreds of years if not longer. However, this isn't the first time Japan has laid claim to other uninhabited islands in its surrounding waters, examples being the Daioyutai and Kuril islands.
Both Japan and Korea have attempted to make this a historical dispute about past sovereignty over Dokdo; yet it is important for us to look at for what it really is. Japan and Korea's real motives are clearly to acquire the exclusive rights to the rich fishing grounds and the potent natural gas reserves located around and under Dokdo.
The country that officially lays claim by international law to these two insignificant rocks also by maritime law will own approximately a 12 nautical mile zone around them, which for both Korea and Japan, could be worth millions if not billions to their respective economies each year, especially if they find natural gas.
Now, Korea is looking toward the international community and especially towards America to help them correct this issue of sovereignty. Yet, this is a risky move since each nation has historical records that state ownership.
We also must take in account that if America or the international community side with Japan, Korea will most likely still refuse to accept their decision and this would just lead to more protesting and, if history is any indication, violence. The same thing could be said with Japan except for the violence.
What is needed is for both Japan and Korea to come to an agreement that will resolve this issue peacefully through diplomatic efforts. This would promote friendly relations based on mutual trust. I want to emphasize that the last thing that needs to occur is for either Japan or Korea to escalate this issue with military posturing or the use of America or China as a mediator.
Japan and Korea are both mature democratic nations that have for the last 50 years been on relatively friendly terms with each other and its hard to believe that these two great nations can't for once and for all resolve this issue peacefully
The writer is a student of biblical studies. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.