Dokdo no place for exhibitionism

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Dokdo no place for exhibitionism

Hong Joon-pyo, chairman of the ruling Grand National Party, added fuel to the verbal fire now raging with Japan on the Dokdo sovereignty issue by proposing that the government upgrade our security presence by dispatching marines to Korea’s easternmost islets. The marines would replace the police coast guard currently stationed there as a symbolic action to demonstrate our territorial rights.

Hong said the defense minister welcomed the idea, while the foreign minister did not oppose it. However, it remains unclear if the proposal is a half-baked idea of Hong’s, or whether it has been coordinated within the party and the government. Either way, there are some serious flaws and dangers inherent in it.

Our government officially maintains that the Dokdo islets belong to South Korea, not only legally, but also historically and geographically, so they should not be subject to territorial claims by other countries. It is therefore fitting that the police, rather than soldiers, keep watch over them. The government has opposed dispatching military forces to Dokdo on such grounds. If we suddenly send marine forces there, we would be admitting that they are, in fact, a conflict zone.

While such a show of force as the one proposed may draw attention to our sovereignty, it could ultimately weaken our international legal claim over the islets. It is a terrible move from our side as Japan would attempt further provocations with more grandstanding in the hope that we fall into their trap.

Politicians are turning the Dokdo dispute into a political showcase. Their recent plans to visit the islets have been disrupted by inclement weather, but members of the National Assembly’s special committee on Dokdo declared that Korean legislators would be holding a meeting on the rocky islands. As such, a flurry of politicians from both camps are rushing to the islets.

Hong canceled his trip due to high waves and Sohn Hak-kyu, the opposition Democratic Party chairman, also plans to visit the island to make a statement. Ironically, they have criticized their Japanese counterparts’ nationalist, vote-winning pleas while resorting to the same trick themselves.

One minister even posed as a coast guard there, while another touted the idea of militarizing the islets. The presidential office has set up surveillance cameras on Dokdo. Such exhibitionist stunts to revive their flagging popularity are myopic. Koreans cannot be so easily duped. It would be better to rely on logical argument and evidence to support our claim to Dokdo.
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