Japanese PM Links Falklands War with Senkaku Dispute

Japan’s Prime Minister looks to former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher for inspiration in the territorial conflict with China over the islets in the East China Sea

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Issei Kato / Reuters

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe delivers his policy speech at the lower house of parliament in Tokyo on Feb. 28, 2013

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, whose country is in conflict with China over islets in the East China Sea, cited former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s reflections on the 1982 Falkland Islands war to stress the importance of the rule of law at sea. During a speech to parliament on Thursday, Abe said Japan’s national interests “lie in making the seas, which are the foundation of our nation’s existence, completely open, free and peaceful,” the Telegraph reported.

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The Japanese Prime Minister, who took office in December, quoted Thatcher’s memoirs reflecting the Falkland Islands war, in which she said Britain was defending the fundamental principle that international law should prevail over the use of force, according to Reuters.

“Looking back at the Falkland Islands conflict, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said the following: ‘The rule of international law must triumph over exertion of force,’” the Wall Street Journal quoted Abe as saying to his fellow lawmakers.

Thatcher rallied Britain to support the 74-day armed conflict, which started when Argentine troops landed on the Falkland Islands on April 2, 1982. It drew skepticism at the time from other British leaders — and some British allies, who didn’t think the territory was worth defending after Argentina seized control, according to the Wall Street Journal. The conflict killed about 650 Argentine and 255 British troops.

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Abe continued in his own words: “The rule of law at sea. I want to appeal to international society that in modern times changes to the status quo by the use of force will justify nothing.” Ties between Tokyo and Beijing have been shaky after the Japanese government last September bought three of the five islands in the East China Sea, known as the Senkaku in Japan and the Diaoyu in China. The islands are controlled by Japan but also claimed by China.

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An escalation in tensions in the territorial dispute has raised fears of an unintended military incident near the islands, where both countries’ militaries have each started to mobilize in the surrounding area, the Wall Street Journal pointed out. The U.S. has said the islets fall under a U.S.-Japan security pact, but “Washington is keen to avoid a clash in the economically vital region,” the Telegraph reported. Abe reiterated in his speech that the islands are Japanese territory and urged Beijing not to escalate tensions. However, he added that Sino-Japanese relations were vital for Japan and that he was always willing to a discussion.

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