Option for Senkakus’ funds

Chatan, Okinawa

The Nov. 1 Kyodo article “¥1.4 billion in islet funds in limbo” discusses the question of the use of previously donated funds for the purchase of three of the Senkaku Islands by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government in the wake of Gov. Shintaro Ishihara’s resignation and the need to decide on the use of the funds by the end of this fiscal year (ending March 31, 2013).

According to the article, donations are still being accepted, although the central government has already purchased and nationalized the three islands. None of the donors has asked for a refund, apparently.

If we assume that there are no restrictions placed on the use of the money other than it be “Senkakus-related,” there are at least three ways the money could be used:

(1) Purchase the remaining private island.

(2) Build up infrastructure for the islands, including a port or shelter (desired since the 1950s by Okinawan fishermen), a heliport or small airfield, a natural habitat (including a cabin or other facility for park authorities and scientists), or a lodge and tourist destination for a limited number of visitors per year;

(3) Construct a museum and archives in Ishigaki for those interested in doing research on the Senkakus.

As a diplomatic historian writing a book about the islands, it is the third option that I would like to recommend since materials related to the islands are few and far between. Conducting serious research requires a great deal of archival research as well as time and money to travel to obtain relevant records.

Japan is not particularly good at preserving its modern records or at advancing its public diplomacy. An archives and museum located in the immediate area would serve as a resource for international scholars, a place of learning about their country’s history for the people of Japan, including Okinawa Prefecture, and a source for public relations with the outside world.

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

robert eldridge