Japan, rejecting Seoul’s calls, starts KAL boycott

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Japan, rejecting Seoul’s calls, starts KAL boycott

Japan yesterday began its one-month boycott of Korean Air despite the Korean government’s calls to drop the plan, according to Seoul officials.

Tokyo last Thursday directed its diplomats to refrain from flying Korea’s largest airline to protest its test flight last month of its new Airbus A380 over Dokdo, Korea’s easternmost islets that are also claimed by Japan.

The officials said Chang Won-sam, director general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Northeast Asia division, met visiting Japanese envoy Shinsuke Sugiyama yesterday and demanded that Tokyo cancel the boycott.

Sugiyama told Chang that he understood Korea’s stance but that his country’s foreign ministry had its own position, hinting that Japan would not accept Seoul’s demands, according to officials with knowledge of the meeting.

The re-emergence of the long-standing territorial row over Dokdo was further heightened with last Friday’s announcement that Yoshitaka Shindo, a lawmaker from Japan’s conservative opposition Liberal Democratic Party, would visit Ulleung Island early next month to protest Korea’s claim over Dokdo, which Japan calls Takeshima.

Ulleung Island, lying 87 kilometers (54 miles) northwest of Dokdo, has a museum on Dokdo and is the closest Korean territory to the disputed islets.

The announcement prompted angry responses from some government figures in Seoul, with Lee Jae-oh, minister without portfolio, posting on Twitter that he would take every measure to block Shindo’s entry onto Ulleung Island.

Yesterday, a National Assembly committee set up to defend Dokdo from Japanese claims, announced that it will hold a meeting on Dokdo on Aug. 12.

“For the first time in Korea’s constitutional history, the National Assembly that represents the public has decided to have a meeting on Dokdo,” said Kang Chang-il, a member of the opposition Democratic Party and head of the committee.

But some Seoul officials, including some from the Foreign Ministry, were concerned that a strong reaction could play into the hands of the Japanese government, which has wanted to draw international attention to the conflict and take the issue to the international courts.

“Because we effectively control Dokdo, it is not proper that we respond to Japan’s nonsensical measures,” said a Foreign Ministry official.

The contentious issue arises as the two countries face several pending bilateral issues to address, such as the six-party talks on North Korea’s nuclear program. Sugiyama’s two-day trip to Seoul through yesterday was also mainly to discuss the six-party talks.

Some diplomatic observers expect Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan to bring up the Dokdo issue when he meets his Japanese counterpart, Takeaki Matsumoto, at this week's Asean Regional Forum in Bali.

By Moon Gwang-lip [joe@joongang.co.kr]

한글 관련 기사 [YTN]
일 외무성, 한국의 조치 철회 촉구에 추가 조치

일본 외무성의 대한항공 이용자제 조치와 관련해 우리 정부가 유감을 표명하고 철회를 촉구한 데 대해 일본 측은 추가 조치를 취했습니다.

일본 외무성의 다카하시 부대신은 대한항공 이용자제에 추가해 외무성이 주최하는 행사에 앞으로 한 달간 대한항공 관계자를 초대하지 않기로 했다고 밝혔다고 아사히 신문이 보도했습니다.

다카하시 부대신은 "명확한 영공 침범이기 때문에 강하게 의사표명을 하지 않으면 안 되는 일로 판단해 이번 조치를 취했다"고 배경을 설명했다고 신문은 전했습니다.
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