National / Politics

Scandal-hit Japanese lawmaker says 'war the only way' to take back Takeshima

by Jesse Johnson

Staff Writer

A lawmaker who drew fire earlier this year for remarks suggesting the need for Japan to wage war with Russia to retake islands held by Moscow has made a similar claim that nothing short of conflict would allow for Japan to retake the disputed Takeshima islets in the Sea of Japan.

Hodaka Maruyama, who was booted from Nippon Ishin no Kai over his Russia remarks in May and in July joined the fringe NHK Kara Kokumin wo Mamoru To (the Party to Protect the People from NHK), on Saturday lambasted the Japanese government’s response to a visit to Takeshima by a group of lawmakers from South Korea, where the rocky islets are known as Dokdo. The islets are controlled by Seoul but claimed by Tokyo.

“The government expressed its regret, but does it really think Takeshima will be returned via negotiations?” Maruyama wrote in a tweet. “Isn’t war the only way to get it back?”

Maruyama said “all options” should be on the table, including taking control of the islets during a “contingency on the Korean Peninsula” and deploying Self-Defense Forces troops there to “expel the illegal occupiers.”

In its response to the visit, the Japanese government on Saturday said the islets are “an inherent part of Japanese territory in light of historical facts and international law” and that the visit by the South Koreans was “extremely regrettable.”

Maruyama, however, questioned this response.

“Are we going to keep shelving this issue forever by attempting to negotiate and continuing to express our regret?” he wrote. “That’s my question. This is the end of the road for our defeated nation.”

Saturday’s visit by the South Korean lawmakers came after Seoul staged large-scale military drills on and around Takeshima last week that saw Maruyama echo similar comments that hinted about the use of military action to take control of the islets.

The moves have further inflamed tensions over ongoing spats over trade and historical issues between the Asian neighbors. They come at a time when ties between the two countries have plummeted to their lowest point in years following a series of South Korean court rulings ordering compensation be paid to people who say they were victims of forced labor during Japan’s colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945, and Japan’s move to impose trade restrictions.

Maruyama has gained notoriety for his seemingly controversial statements, which continued into Sunday, with tweets criticizing the response from Tokyo over the ongoing pro-democracy protests and violence in Hong Kong.

In a series of posts, Maruyama urged the government not to “interfere in the domestic affairs” of China beyond voicing concern.

“Similarly, (China) should not interfere in Japan’s domestic affairs, including the contents of legislation and visits to Yasukuni Shrine,” he wrote.

Maruyama’s initial claim to fame came during a visit to one of four Russian-held islands off Hokkaido in May, when the lawmaker— who had been drinking heavily — asked the leader of a group of former Japanese residents, “Do you think there is any alternative to war (to regain control of the islands)?”

Maruyama, a Lower House member, also made other controversial remarks during the visa-free trip, such as alluding to his desire to go somewhere on the island where he could have sex with women living there.

He later faced a resolution from Japan’s ruling and opposition parties calling for his resignation as a lawmaker, but did not resign.