‘Bluebook’ in Tokyo renews Dokdo claim

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‘Bluebook’ in Tokyo renews Dokdo claim

Japan renewed its claim over the Dokdo islets in the East Sea and deleted text describing Seoul and Tokyo’s shared fundamental values in its annual foreign policy report on Tuesday.

In response, the Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs lodged a strong protest to Tokyo for the second consecutive day and urged Japan to take the example of postwar Germany in squarely confronting its past to gain international respect, emphasizing, “History cannot be erased or revised.”

On Monday, the Japanese Education Ministry revealed that all middle school textbooks in history, geography and social sciences that it reviewed would contain text enforcing Japan’s claim over the Dokdo islets, raising concern in Seoul over Japan’s continued historical revisionism.

Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida reported the contents of its diplomatic report to the Cabinet on Tuesday morning, amid frayed relations with Seoul as Tokyo has been pushing to promote a nationalist agenda, especially over territorial and historical issues.

In the 2015 Diplomatic Bluebook, Tokyo claimed that Dokdo, which it refers to as Takeshima, “is clearly an inherent territory of Japan, in light of historical facts and based upon international law.” This is in line with Japan’s claims for the past eight years in its Bluebook.

Seoul maintains that Dokdo, which it controls, is not disputed and is historically, geographically and by international law Korean territory.

Compared with last year, the foreign policy report deleted a phrase that said Japan and Korea “share fundamental values such as freedom, democracy, and respect for basic human rights.” The language left unchanged says the two countries are the “most important neighboring countries.”

In 2014, the diplomatic policy report stated in full, “The Republic of Korea and Japan are the most important neighboring countries to each other, which share fundamental values such as freedom, democracy, and respect for basic human rights.” The language about sharing fundamental values was also removed from Japan’s foreign ministry website in March. Korea’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Noh Kwang-il said in a briefing that despite prior warnings, the Japanese government “repeated the historical regressive act of passing through its Cabinet a Diplomatic Bluebook that contains unjust claims in regards to the issues of Dokdo and the victims of sexual slavery under the Japanese military.”

The Bluebook maintains that the issue of the Japanese military’s sex slaves during World War II, referred to euphemistically as “comfort women,” has already been settled legally.

The issue remains a major thorn in bilateral relations with Seoul as Korea demands a formal apology and compensation for the former sex slaves.

Noh recalled German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s remarks emphasizing the importance of facing up to its World War II atrocities in her speech in Tokyo last month, and said Japan needs to “deliberate the reason why post-war Germany is respected by the international community.”

The Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs also summoned a Japanese diplomat for the second day in a row. Director-General for Northeast Asian Affairs Lee Sang-deok issued a formal complaint over the so-called Bluebook to Kenji Kanasugi, a minister at the Japanese Embassy in Seoul.

The Japanese Foreign Ministry also announced it will translate the entire Bluebook into English for the first time since 2008, part of Tokyo’s campaign to spread more global awareness of its territorial claims.

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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