Japan envoy called in for protest over Dokdo claim

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Japan envoy called in for protest over Dokdo claim

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday summoned a senior minister from Japan’s Embassy in Seoul to protest the celebration of so-called Takeshima Day on Saturday, commemorating Tokyo’s claim over Korea’s Dokdo islets.

Takeshima is Japan’s name for Dokdo, and Takeshima Day has been celebrated annually in Matsue, Shimane Prefecture on Feb. 22 since 2006. On Feb. 22, 1905, Japan’s cabinet claimed jurisdiction of the islets.

Lee Sang-deok, director general of Northeast Asian Affairs at the ministry, summoned senior diplomat Hisashi Michigami and told him that repeated claims over the Dokdo islets “demonstrate Japan’s continuing attempts to justify its colonial rule of Korea” under the banner of imperialism, according to ministry sources.

Lee warned the Japanese official that the two countries’ relations will further deteriorate if the Tokyo government continues its distortions of history.

The fact that the Shinzo Abe cabinet sent a vice minister to the event for the second year in a row further upset Seoul, whose relations with Japan have been strained in recent months over historical and territorial disputes amid rising concerns that Tokyo’s conservative government is pursuing a nationalistic agenda.

Yoshitami Kameoka, a parliamentary secretary with the Cabinet Office, represented the Abe government at the controversial event. A group of 16 Japanese lawmakers also attended.

Japan considers Dokdo to be part of its southwestern Shimane Prefecture.

During the meeting yesterday, the Foreign Ministry also protested the Abe government’s reported attempts to revise the Kono Statement of 1993, which apologized for the physical and psychological damages and indignities suffered by Asian women recruited by the imperial government to serve as sex slaves for the military during World War II. Michigami reportedly said there is no change in Tokyo’s stance in honoring the statement, adding that such allegations are borne out of misunderstandings, according to the JoongAng Ilbo today.

The summoning of the Japanese official yesterday came a day after the Foreign Affairs Ministry issued a statement criticizing Japan for holding the controversial event, saying it made “preposterous claims over Dokdo, an integral part of Korean territory.”

More than 100 protesters from civic groups gathered near the Japanese Embassy Saturday in protest.

A 51-year-old man surnamed Park from Namwon, North Jeolla, was taken to a police station after he threw a tennis shoe at the embassy at around 1:00 p.m. Saturday. Inside the shoe was a statement written by Park denouncing the Japanese government.

Another 53-year-old man identified by the surname Choi cut off the tip of his right pinkie and held a banner that read “Dokdo is Korea’s territory. Punish Abe” and rushed at the embassy. Police blocked his entry. He was taken to a hospital.

BY KANG JIN-KYU, YOO JI-HYE [jkkang2@joongang.co.kr]

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