The Falklandization of the Senkaku Islands And Britain's Moral Standing In The World
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By Alex Calvo
The Falklands may lie in a different ocean, and thousands of miles away, from the
Senkaku Islands, but in addition to also being claimed by another country, the latter
have recently provided a reminder of what went wrong in the South Atlantic in the
decades leading to the 1982 Argentine invasion. Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara's
proposal to buy three of the five islands, owned by private citizens, with a view to their
settlement and economic development, seeks to break the impasse brought about by
Tokyo's refusal not only to let Japanese citizens live in the Senkaku but even visit them.
In addition to raising funds to purchase the islands, Ishihara but met Prime Minister
Yoshihiko Noda, warning him about the country's Foreign Ministry. After the meeting,
he said "I told him that the biggest hurdle concerning the Senkaku Islands is the Foreign
Ministry. The ministry has no ability but to flatter the big power."
To anyone vaguely familiar with the history of the Falklands, this would be a painful
reminder of the policy followed by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office for many
years, in which the islands were deprived of the necessary funds to see their economy
flourish, while their inhabitants were subjected to constant pressure to accede to Buenos
Aires' demands. Treated like children, they were supposed to see the light if only
Argentina was a bit patient and gave them some margin, while successive officials,
during their "pastoral" visits, made it clear that the Falklands had no future without
economic integration with Argentina and, furthermore, that Britain was not only
unwilling but unable to do anything in the event of an invasion.
Of course, reality, that ugly monster which ends up destroying even the best
designed politically correct schemes, reared its head in the Shackleton Report, which,
commissioned in an attempt to reinforce the idea that the economy of the Falklands
was doomed, ended up proving exactly the opposite point. Today, all of this is history,
since the economic success of the islands, even before the commercial exploitation of
offshore oil, is clear for all to see.
However, or perhaps because it is history, and now that we are in the midst of the 30th
anniversary of the war, the news from Japan serve as a powerful reminder of what
went wrong. There, in the Senkaku Islands, Japan's Foreign Ministry does not have the
problem that its British counterpart had to deal with for so many years. The absence
of a settled population means that there is no need to get their consent to secure any
change in their constitutional status. Without people, without "demos", there is no need
for "democracy", and the door is always open to some kind of peace in our time deal
with Beijing designed to buy a few extra years.
How different from the South Atlantic, where a few thousand people have made it
repeatedly clear that they have no intention of joining a foreign country, which, by the
way, despite almost daily assurances that their way of life would be respected should
they be annexed, the first thing it did at the start of the 1982 occupation was to force
them to drive on the right. Those motorists in Stanley who refused were deported to
West Falkland and placed under house arrest.
Can there be any doubt that, had it not been for the brave defiance of the local
population, the Falklands would have long been quietly gone? Not everybody may
agree, but it seems that the governor of Tokyo certainly does, and hence his plan to
turn three desert islands into an integral part of Japan, so that, if some day, his country's
Foreign Ministry comes up with some scheme to deliver them to Beijing, this will be
All of this should make it clear that when, 30 years ago, Britain decided to fight, the
impact of her decision went much further than at first seemed. Many countries may
have been surprised by her refusal to condone and reward aggression, and shocked
at her resolve, but a lot of people in the world took note and approved of her actions,
understanding that they made our planet a bit safer. In the cold waters of the South
Atlantic, much was at stake, even if it may not have been clear at the time.
Against this, there were cries of "isolation", and warnings that by defending herself,
Britain may be losing the favour of others, compromising her future in the concert of
nations. Thirty years later, the news from Japan show how this is simply not true. When
faced with a resurgent and aggressive neighbour, it is defiance, not appeasement, which
prompt admiration and imitation. Just like, at the end of the XIX Century, when seeking
to become a respected nation, Tokyo looked toward London, in different but equally
critical circumstances, her gaze is again pointing at the same direction.
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