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U.S. agency joins fray over Dokdo

Changing its designation of islets indicates sovereignty is in dispute  PLAY AUDIO

July 28,2008
The U.S. Board on Geographic Names recently revised its description of the islets from a South Korean territory to a territory with “undesignated sovereignty.” [YONHAP]
An official United States agency has crashed into the middle of the feud between Seoul and Tokyo over the Dokdo Islets by appearing to lean towards Japan.

The U.S. Board on Geographic Names recently revised its description of the islets from a South Korean territory to a territory with “undesignated sovereignty.”

The Korean Foreign Ministry held an emergency meeting yesterday and decided to form a task force under a vice minister to deal with the change, said a senior ministry official.

An order had already been sent to the South Korean Embassy in Washington on Saturday night to express Seoul’s concerns and investigate the change.

The United States has provided a preliminary reply to the Korean Embassy, explaining that the change was made to maintain what it called a neutral position on the islets, according to the Korean government.

Seoul said it will try to reverse the new classification.

Until last week, the U.S. Board of Geographic Names stated on its Internet site that the Liancourt Rocks, a term also used to refer to Dokdo, were under the control of South Korea. But yesterday the islets were identified as under “undesignated sovereignty.”

While it was not immediately known when the change was made, the islets were classified as South Korean territory as late as July 17. The board is an agency that aims at maintaining uniform usage of geographic names throughout the U.S. government.

The U.S. board uses the name Liancourt Rocks for Dokdo, derived from the name of the French whaling ship whose crew first told Europeans about the islets in the 19th century.

The board said last week that it has used the name Liancourt Rocks to identify the islets since 1977.

The Web site of the U.S. board used to show other names with which Liancourt Rocks are called, listing “Tok-to” first and then Takeshima; but the order was changed so that the Japanese name appeared first and then the Korean name.

The long-standing diplomatic row between Tokyo and Seoul over the islets was reignited earlier this month when the Japanese education ministry issued new guidelines for middle school teachers that the islets, where South Korea has maintained effective control, should be taught as Japanese territory.

South Korea has had a police contingent stationed on the islets since 1954.


By Ser Myo-ja Staff Reporter [myoja@joongang.co.kr]


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