[EDITORIALS]A sea by any other name

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[EDITORIALS]A sea by any other name

South Korea and Japan are engaged in a fierce diplomatic tug-of-war over how the waters between the peninsula and Japan should be named. The eighth round of the United Nations Conference on the Standardization of Geographical Names closed this week in Berlin. The meeting, however, did not accept Seoul's proposal to change the name of the Sea of Japan as an agenda item; the conference asked South Korea and Japan to settle the matter between themselves. That is a pity.

Japan argued that the conference was not a meeting to discuss disputes over geographical names, and stopped Seoul from making the proposal at the conference. Tokyo, instead, suggested a bilateral meeting of working-level officials before the end of this month.

Japan knows very well that naming the waters "Sea of Japan" is swimming against the tide. The International Hydrographic Organization's resolution of 1974 and the UN Conference on the Standardization of Geographical Names' resolution of 1977 advised that if the name of the disputed waters is not settled, the two names -- "East Sea" and "Sea of Japan" -- should be used side by side. That is Seoul's position, and it has gained steady support from international society.

Japan is being driven into a corner because the vote to revise standard sea maps by the International Hydrographic Organization is approaching. The draft of the revision omitted the name "Sea of Japan" and would leave the disputed waters unnamed until South Korea and Japan reach an agreement.

The revised draft has been given to IHO member countries and will be voted on before the end of November. If a majority votes for the revision, the waters no longer will be the Sea of Japan exclusively; if not, the waters will continue to be called by the present name. Japan, therefore, has been stressing that negotiations with South Korea are still going on and is urging member countries to vote against the revision.

Seoul must not be fooled by such a strategy. Unless Japan proposes alternatives to replace "Sea of Japan," Seoul should not sit down for bilateral negotiations. We should give full play to Korea's diplomatic skills to persuade the 72 IHO members. Unless the two countries come to an agreement of a new name, Seoul should push for using the names "East Sea" and "Sea of Japan" on an equal footing.
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