Japan may call for ICJ settlement over dispute

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Japan may call for ICJ settlement over dispute

Japan may call for territorial issues between two countries to be settled by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in an upcoming Group of Seven foreign ministers’ meeting, Japanese media reports say.

The move will enable Tokyo to bolster its claims over Korea’s easternmost Dokdo islets.

Japan is planning to include a clause in the foreign ministers’ statement at the two-day Group of Seven summit in Hiroshima, which starts Sunday, stating that countries with territorial issues would be subject to the decision of an international judicial institution such as The Hague’s ICJ, the Nihon Keizai Shimbun reported on Thursday. The G-7 countries include the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Canada and Japan. The summit is the first of a series of meetings that will lead up to the Ise-Shima leaders’ summit at the end of May.

The statement may be intended to refer to the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, where Beijing is reclaiming land, despite conflicting claims by countries including Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan. But such language could also be applied to Dokdo, which is referred to in Japan as Takeshima. Seoul considers the islets the first Korean territorial victim of Japanese aggression and a symbol of its sovereignty. It maintains there is no dispute to carry to the ICJ because the islets, a part of Ulleung County in North Gyeongsang, are inherently Korean territory.

Tokyo is also likely to reassert its claims over the Dokdo islets in its annual Diplomatic Bluebook, issued by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to be published later this year.

The Asahi Shimbun reported on Wednesday that a draft of the 2016 Diplomatic Bluebook asserts the Dokdo islets are an “inherent part of the territory of Japan in light of historical facts and based on international law,” as it has done in previous years.

Such assertions have resulted in outrage from both the Korean government and civic organizations.

The Korean government has in the past pointed out that Tokyo’s continued attempts to claim Dokdo are tantamount to denying Japan’s imperialist history and invasion of the Korean Peninsula. Cho June-hyuck, the Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman, said in a briefing on Thursday, “We can say clearly at this point that the Japanese government needs to immediately stop any provocation over Dokdo, which is an integral part of Korean territory historically, geographically and under international law.”

The Shinzo Abe government has since its inauguration stood by its policy to intensify its territorial claims, which has included revising student textbooks.

Prime Minister Abe sent a high-ranking official to participate in the country’s Takeshima Day on Feb. 22. The event has been held in Shimane Prefecture since 2005, and was devised to stress Japan’s territorial claims over the islets.

On March 18, Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology announced the results of its review of high school textbooks, in which some 77 percent of the textbooks mention that Dokdo is Japanese sovereign territory or that Korea’s occupation of the islets is illegal.

The Korean government has denounced both moves by Tokyo.

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

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