Japan renews claim to Dokdo islets

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Japan renews claim to Dokdo islets

Tokyo renewed its claim to Dokdo, Korea’s easternmost islets, in its policy paper yesterday, putting to the test already-sour bilateral relations over a recent string of sovereignty spats.

The Japanese government held a cabinet meeting presided over by Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda yesterday morning and endorsed the contents of the 2012 diplomatic document.

“There is a sovereignty issue surrounding Takeshima between Japan and Korea,” the document read, mentioning the Japanese name of the islets, “but the Japanese government’s stance has been consistent regarding Takeshima that it is clearly Japan’s own territory both in the light of historical facts and according to the international law.”

The single-volume document overviews Japan’s diplomatic policies executed during the previous year. The move follows the approval by Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology of 21 school textbooks detailing its territorial claims to Dokdo on March 27.

Seoul yesterday issued a statement of protest immediately after Japan’s announcement of the document. It is the first time the Korean government has issued a statement protesting the renewal of the sovereignty claim to Dokdo in the Japan’s diplomatic papers.

“Our government expresses deep regret to the Japanese government for laying an illegitimate claim, through the diplomatic blue paper, to Dokdo, which is our territory,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Cho Byung-jae, reading the statement during a media briefing. “We won’t accept any attempt to challenge our territorial sovereignty.”

In the statement, Seoul said it is exercising “perfect” territorial sovereignty and urged Japan not to repeat a “reckless” claim to Dokdo, which it said is a “meaningless” act.

“As long as Japan is taken into captivity by wrong historical perception and claims that Dokdo is its territorial sovereignty, the future-oriented Korea-Japan relationship will end up as an empty slogan and Japan will not be able to fulfill a responsible role in the international community,” the statement read.

Seoul also called in Hirotaka Matsuo, political counselor at the Japanese Embassy to Korea, to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade building in central Seoul to deliver its protest to Japan’s endorsement and call on Japan to delete the description of Dokdo.

Seoul said no significant change was observed in Japan’s new stance from the previous year and thus it is making a conventional response to it, except for the issuance of the statement.

Japan has contained the claim to Dokdo in its diplomatic papers since it began publishing the document in 1963, according to an official of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Seoul.

“It is not that we tolerate its claim to Dokdo,” said another foreign ministry official in Seoul, “but we don’t want to make a fuss out of this, which will serve Japan’s interest.”

Japan has wanted to call attention to the Korea-Japan dispute over Dokdo’s sovereignty while Korea, which has maintained an effective rule over the islets since 1954, says there is no territorial controversy about it.

Korea keeps historical records that show the islets have belonged to it over the past hundreds of years, except for during Japan’s 1910-45 colonial rule of Korea.

Japan is expected to raise the claim to Dokdo again through another Takeshima Day event, slated to occur in Tokyo next Wednesday. The annual event was held on Feb. 21 in Shimane Prefecture, which Japan claims has sovereignty over Dokdo, but conservative politicians and civic groups in Japan are planning to hold an additional event in the Japanese capital.


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