[EDITORIALS]Get a grip on Tokto dispute

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[EDITORIALS]Get a grip on Tokto dispute

Japan’s Shimane Prefecture attempted to claim Tokto islands by establishing “Takeshima Day” on Tuesday, and the Japanese ambassador to Korea declared the islets are “historically and legally Japanese territory.”
The territorial dispute over Tokto is not a new matter, but it has now reached a serious state. The Japanese ambassador staged a diplomatic provocation by claiming the islands during a press conference in Seoul Wednesday. The Foreign Ministry appears to want to conclude this dispute by summoning a senior Japanese diplomat and issuing a warning. But this is a far more serious issue.
When Japan makes a claim that the Tokto islands belong to it, we can just ignore it. Seoul’s Foreign Ministry has already said, “Since the islets are under de facto occupation of South Korea, Japan will see no actual gain by repeating claims.” The ministry’s logic is understandable. But the Japanese ambassador directly challenged his host nation by making such a claim in Seoul. How can we possibly ignore that?
The Foreign Ministry is largely responsible for letting the situation reach this stage. The ministry has been reluctant to deal with the territorial dispute. Recently, the newly-appointed police chief planned to visit Tokto islands to meet with maritime police guarding the islets. At the time, the foreign ministry asked the police to cancel the plan, saying it would result in unnecessary friction with Japan.
What is wrong with the police chief visiting his staff? What country is the foreign ministry working for?
Because the ministry has been handling this matter lukewarmly, Japan ―even its ambassador ― is talking rubbish. It is the foreign ministry’s policy over the Tokto islands that had allowed Japan to think it is okay to do so.
As the public sentiment worsened, a foreign ministry official belatedly said defending the territorial rights over Tokto is a far more important priority than South Korea-Japan relations. Why hasn’t the ministry handled the dispute with such an attitude in the past? Are South Korean diplomats lacking patriotism?
This year is designated as the friendship year between South Korea and Japan, and the two countries agreed to leave the past behind. How should we perceive Japan’s rude provocation? The foreign ministry must get a grip. It must no longer stay passive in this territorial dispute.
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