[EDITORIALS]Baiting Korea over DokdoThe Japanese government notified the International Hydrographic Organization that it would be exploring the sea around Korea’s exclusive economic zone in the vicinity of the Dokdo Islets.
It is common sense to seek the consent of the neighboring nation when a country wants to hold maritime surveys within the exclusive economic zone of another country. But Japan’s decision to conduct exploration without a single word of warning is clearly a provocation to the Korean government.
We must look at Japan’s true intentions behind the decision to hold the controversial hydrographic survey. In March last year, Japanese Coast Guard patrol planes attempted to enter the airspace nearby the islets not long after Japan’s Shimane prefecture passed a bill declaring “Takeshima Day,” after the Japanese name for the island.
It was also only last month that Japan’s Ministry of Education “recommended” that publishers of high school textbooks start labeling the Dokdo Islets as Japanese territory next year. The planned sea survey is only an extension of these plans, which is why we consider the recent announcement as a carefully planned and intended provocation.
The recent incidents are in line with Japan’s intention of classifying the waters near Dokdo as “controversial areas” with the General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans (GEBCO) Sub-Committee on Underwater Feature Names in June.
Another thing that catches our interest is Japan’s domestic political purpose. Many have pointed out that Shinzo Abe, current chief cabinet secretary and a strong candidate for the next prime minister, is using the issue to unite right-wingers before the Liberal Democratic Party presidential elections in September.
It is ironic that the same people who denounced President Roh’s hard-line stance on visits by Japanese politicians to Yasukuni Shrine as actions intended for domestic politics are using a similar method to gather votes on their own domestic front. We cannot hold back our anger at Japan’s shallow idea to use the Dokdo islets for domestic politics when relations between Korea and the United States are estranged due to issues concerning North Korea’s nuclear development.
It is proper for our government to declare that it will stick to international laws and stop or arrest all Japanese vessels that intrude in our exclusive economic zone. It is also clear that Japan must take responsibility for any physical clashes or side effects that are expected to occur as a result.
The only thing that worries us is the chance that Korea might be ensnared in Japan’s plan to solve the issue under international law by making it into an internationally disputed area.
There are parts of the exclusive economic zone that overlap between the two countries, which is why the two nations declared the area a neutral zone in the Korea-Japan fisheries agreement. Korea and Japan, however, have issued different interpretations of what constitues the neutral zone.
There are indications that Korea might not get the result it wants if the argument ends up in international court. We must gracefully solve with the issue by firmly dealing with Japan’s provocations, while preventing it from turning into an international issue.