Korea blasts Japan’s claim to Dokdo in white paper

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Korea blasts Japan’s claim to Dokdo in white paper

The Korean government strongly protested Japan renewing its claim to the Dokdo islets in the East Sea in its annual defense white paper released yesterday in the midst of strained bilateral ties.

The Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs summoned Japan’s Deputy Chief of Mission Takashi Kurai yesterday to formally lodge the protest against Tokyo, emphasizing that Dokdo, which Japan calls Takeshima, is “historically, geographically and by international law” the territory of Korea.

“We request that a related claim be immediately deleted from the white paper and for such an act to be prevented from being repeated,” said Cho Tai-young, spokesman of the Foreign Ministry, at a press briefing yesterday. He said that Kurai conveyed the protest to Tokyo.

The Defense of Japan 2013 annual white paper is the first under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was elected in December.

It stated, “Japan also confronts unresolved territorial disputes over the Northern Territories and Takeshima, both of which are inherent parts of Japanese territory.” The Northern Territories refers to the Russian-controlled Kuril Islands.

Japan has included such claims in its annual defense white papers since 2005.

The annual defense report has ratcheted up its rhetoric compared to previous years, especially regarding Beijing, which disputes the Senkaku Islands, called Diaoyu by China, and also addressed issues such as China’s dangerous maritime activities and North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats.

Japan increased its defense budget by 0.7 percent for the first time in 11 years, anticipating greater threats to national security.

Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said taking the destabilizing factors in the region into account, “Japan will protect our people’s lives and assets, and our territorial land, sea and sky, till the end.”

Despite the foreign ministers of South Korea and Japan meeting bilaterally for the first time on the sidelines of the Asean Regional Forum in Brunei last week, the defense paper is yet another step back in the easing of tension between the two neighbors.

Since President Lee Myung-bak’s visit one year ago to the Dokdo islets, which Seoul claims are not disputed, bilateral ties have rapidly deteriorated.

BY SARAH KIM [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]
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