Seoul tells Tokyo there’s no Dokdo issue to discuss

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Seoul tells Tokyo there’s no Dokdo issue to discuss

Seoul yesterday sent a diplomatic letter to Tokyo rejecting its recent proposal to settle the Dokdo territorial issue through international arbitration, saying there was no dispute to settle.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesman Cho Tai-young confirmed yesterday that the government sent a letter turning down Japan’s suggestion to take the issue of Dokdo, called Takeshima in Japan, to the International Court of Justice.

“Japan’s absurd claim on Dokdo is an act that violates our sovereignty,” Cho said at a daily briefing. “Dokdo is Korea’s original territory, which is definite based on history, geography and international law, and a territorial dispute is nonexistent in the matter of Dokdo.”

In the rejection letter, “The government clarified that there’s no single reason that we have to respond to any proposals Tokyo mentioned,” Cho said.

The letter also reminded Japan, Cho said, that “the islands were retaken by Korea through Japan’s unconditional surrender and some international agreements, such as the Cairo Declaration of 1943 and the Potsdam Declaration of 1945.”

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has said that Dokdo was originally Japanese territory and Korea is illegally occupying it, but Korean historians say that Japan forcibly incorporated the islands during the Russo-Japanese War.

Otuki Kotaro, an official at the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, received the letter from the Foreign Ministry in central Seoul yesterday. When he left the ministry, he was surrounded by reporters.

Upset by President Lee Myung-bak’s surprise visit to the easternmost islands earlier this month, Tokyo sent a diplomatic letter on Aug. 21 that demanded an apology for the visit and proposed international arbitration over the matter. Seoul sent back the letter via registered mail.

Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba said it was “very disappointing” that Korea turned down the proposal for international arbitration, Kyodo News reported. He also issued a statement yesterday saying he will take the issue to the ICJ unilaterally.

“The Japan-Korea joint proposal was one of the proper measures to resolve the Takeshima issue peacefully and calmly based on [international] law,” he said in the statement.

He denounced Korea’s rejection as being improper.

“We had expected that Korea, an important member of the United Nations and striving to be a ‘global Korea,’ would accept our proposal and express its opinions at the ICJ without hesitation,” he said. “[The reply from the Korean government] didn’t even give any specific idea on resolving the Takeshima matter.”

Diplomatic sources told the JoongAng Ilbo that it would take two or three months for Tokyo to take the issue to the ICJ unilaterally because they have to prepare many documents the international court would demand. In a practical sense, sources said, both countries won’t officially deal with the matter for a while.

However, analysts are watching to see how Japan reacts to the Korean defense drill scheduled for Sept. 7 on the Dokdo islets. The military exercise, which began in 1996, is held twice a year, and this year, the Marines will join the Army, Air Force and Coast Guard, which is unusual. However, there’s no live-fire exercise during the four-day drill.

Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan said at a parliamentary meeting Aug. 21 that although Korea won’t agree with Japan’s proposal for discussing the issue, it can’t avoid responding to Japan’s absurd claim on Dokdo. He said the government is preparing an “upscale, worldwide promotion event” to raise international awareness of Korea’s sovereignty over the islets.

By Kim Hee-jin [heejin@joongang.co.kr]

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