By Dr. Hong Beom Rhee
For peace, all humans including Korean, Japanese, Asian, and American, who love truth above distortion of history, justice above injustice, and peace above war, must cooperate and unite against the Japanese claim to Tokdo Island. Japanese government papers, published in August, state that Tokdo belongs to Japan. But according to Korean and Japanese historical sources, the island has belonged to Korea for more than 1,500 years, except for 40 years under Japanese colonial rule.
One of the reasons cited in the government papers is the Japan-Korea agreement of 1905 which was made under duress and is therefore invalid. The other reason cited is in the San Francisco Peace Treaty of 1951. In it, the United States did not explicitly state that Tokdo Island was Korea’s. However, a main principle of the Treaty by the Allied Powers, was for Japan to surrender her occupied territories and islands acquired by illegal means.
On January 29, 1946, General Headquarters Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers sent Supreme Command Allied Powers Instruction Article 3, No. 677 to the Japanese government. In the article, Tokdo Island was determined to belong to Korea. On August 15, 1946, the Japanese government itself stated that the Tokdo Island belonged to Korea. This is not simply a local dispute. It relates to the peace of East Asia and the national security of the United States.
The history of Japanese militarism may repeat itself if we maintain silence against their expansionist ambition. Japan’s attacks on Korea, Asia, Russia, Britain, and America started with her occupation of Tokdo Island in 1905. In order to understand the Japanese mindset regarding Tokdo, we have to understand the Japanese “Conquering Korea Argument.” It was advocated by Japanese imperial expansionists from pre-war modern Japan and argues that conquering Korea is conquering Asia, conquering Asia is conquering Russia and conquering Russia is conquering America.
Following this argument, Japan fought China in the Sino-Japanese War (1894-5), and Russia in the Russo-Japanese War (1904-5). Finally, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Tokdo is an important location for power struggle in the Far East and we have to consider today’s international situation surrounding Korea. Japanese ultra-nationalists think that the United States is suffering financially and militarily, and American leadership in Asia and the world is declining.
Chinese power is rising and expanding towards Korea and the Pacific. Today’s situation may be similar to the Japanese expansion into Korea and Asia in alliance with Britain and the U.S. against the Russian expansion towards the South in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. After Japan became a power, she attacked America in 1941, 35 years after Japan occupied Tokdo in 1905. We have to learn a lesson from history. We must not allow Japan to repeat her war crimes.
Another hidden motive of Japan’s claim to Tokdo is to agitate her ultra-nationalism to reform the “Japanese Peace Constitution” in favor of a strong army. In rearmament, Japanese ultranationalistic militarists have not forgotten the aim to take revenge on America for dropping nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The samurai spirit attacked Pearl Harbor with suicide bombings. Japan is now building a strong military with powerful industrial and economic strengths. They have not given up their dream of the “Great East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere” against the West.
They are working for a revival of power and glory of the past Japanese Empire against the Koreans, Americans, the Jews, and Japanese people who love peace. We know many historical wars have been started by small numbers of warlike leaders like what Japanese militarists have done. Today, they must stop their unreasonable claim to Tokdo. They must find it in their heart to apologize for their war crimes, and not to make it an international territorial dispute issue which may cause a great modern war tragedy to destroy peace.
The best way for national security of the U.S., and peace for the world, would be for the U.S. to play a leadership role to help Korea maintain a balance of power between China and Japan in East Asia. In that way, no single powerful country would emerge to conquer Asia, America and the world. The U.S. should be the leader of great freedom, peace, and democracy for all.
Dr. Hong Beom Rhee is an Ivy League-educated professor and businessman, owner of several institutes of higher learning, and president of the Los Angelesbased non-profit Global Campaign for Freedom. He is also a California State Commissioner in the administration of Governor Jerry Brown, and a member of President Barack Obama’s “Kitchen Cabinet.”