Japan uses public survey to bolster Dokdo claim

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Japan uses public survey to bolster Dokdo claim

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Takehiro Funakoshi, political affairs attache at the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, leaves the Foreign Ministry yesterday after being summoned for a protest of Japan’s latest move claiming Dokdo. By Kim Sung-ryong

South Korea denounced a Japanese government survey about the disputed Dokdo islands in which more than 60 percent of Japanese respondents claimed they are Japan’s territory.

“We seriously protest the Japanese government’s provocative act over Dokdo, which is our indigenous territory based on history, geography and international law, through using opinion polls conducted by the Cabinet Office,” said Cho Tai-young, South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson, in a statement yesterday. “We strongly urge Japan to stop these acts immediately.

“We think it is deplorable for Japan to perpetuate its absurd claims on Dokdo and for some Japanese leaders to repeatedly display arrogance and a wrong perception of history,” Choi said. “These kinds of words and actions based on misperceptions of history are becoming a serious barrier to harmony in East Asia and the development of Korea-Japan diplomatic ties.”

The Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs called in Takehiro Funakoshi, who is in charge of political affairs at the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, to express the government’s annoyance with the survey.

Japan’s Cabinet Office Thursday announced the result of an opinion poll surveying 3,000 Japanese adults over 11 days starting June 20.

The poll said 94.5 percent of the 1,784 respondents said they were “aware of what Takeshima is” and 63 percent of those respondents said, “South Korea is illegally occupying the islands by deploying its security guards there.” Takeshima is what Japan calls Dokdo.

Also, 63 percent of the respondents who were aware of islets claimed they belong to Japan’s Shimane Prefecture and 61 percent said Dokdo is Japan’s territory as proven by history and international law.

The office said the survey was conducted by a newly-launched department dubbed the “Territorial and Sovereign Issues Planning and Coordination Office,” which the Shinzo Abe administration established in February to work on Japan’s territorial claims.

The survey angered the Korean legislature.

“This meaningless survey by the Japanese government, which has not a single right to claim sovereignty over Dokdo, is total nonsense,” Min Hyun-joo, a spokeswoman of the governing Saenuri Party, wrote in an editorial yesterday.

“We are upset by the Japanese government justifying its absurd ambitions over Dokdo by using a baseless survey.”

Park Yong-jin, a spokesman for the opposition Democratic Party, said, “In regards to the matter of Dokdo, the Japanese government is now attempting a new kind of provocation over its sovereignty claim, in the form of a public survey. “But an opinion poll can’t change the actual truth of a territorial dispute because it is a matter of history,” he said.

In the meantime, Japanese Prime Minister Abe will not visit Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine, which honors Japan’s war dead including war criminals, out of concerns it would damage diplomatic relations with China and Korea, Japan’s Kyodo News said on Thursday, citing sources.

BY KIM HEE-JIN [heejin@joongang.co.kr]

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