Letters to the Editor,
The Daily Yomiuri,
Chuo-ku, Tokyo 104-8243
Due to aging and its low birth rate Japan’s overall population is shrinking. The government frets about it - unnecessarily, I think - and the paper is occasionally seasoned with stories outlining doomsday scenarios that project a much shrunken population one hundred years from now and a correspondingly diminished economy. In addition to that, or by extension from it, are the structural hurdles involving debt payment, old age pensions, medical care, municipal amalgamation, etc. It is shocking to calculate that the Japanese population is declining by a hundred people every day. Imagine entire neighborhoods evaporating day by day. By comparison my country, Canada, grows by about a thousand people per day. But even at that rate Japan should still be much larger than Canada in a century’s time. These demographic conditions might be exacerbating the various ongoing territorial disputes with Russia, South Korea and China: the Kuril islands, the Senkaku Islands, and Takeshima. Demography doesn’t cause these disputes, of course, and each is its own issue. But if any country does not have the ability to physically occupy its territory - the Arctic archipelago and the rest of its vast northern regions in the case of Canada - then claims to sovereignty over it are compromised and the territory becomes an easier target for scavengers.
This is something to keep in mind because of Japan’s claims of sovereignty over many far-flung islands and islets. In the dispute with China over the Senkaku islands the best thing Japan can do is to get people living there and have a Coast Guard unit stationed there. They say that possession is nine tenths of the law and the picture will look a lot different if the islands host a resident community.