Do you know, Tokyo?The Japanese government announced a new set of education guidelines requiring elementary and middle schools to teach that Takeshima (Dokdo in Korean) is Japanese territory. Last week, the state approved high school textbooks stating all the islets it claims as its own — Takeshima, Senkaku (Diaoyu in Chinese) and the Kuril — which the country is engaged in territorial disputes with Korea, China and Russia. Japanese authorities are teaching young minds that Dokdo is theirs, to be redeemed from Koreans, and is building anti-Korean sentiment, which could undermine bilateral relations.
Even when all the historic data states that Dokdo is Korean territory, rightists in Japan have persistently made claims over the islets in the East Sea during the last two decades. In 2001, it approved a textbook issued by a right-wing group glorifying invasions by the Imperial Japanese military.
In 2008, it issued a reference book for middle and high schools acknowledging there is a difference of opinion over Dokdo between Korea and Japan. Under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who led the rewriting of the peace constitution, the government orders teachers to teach students that Dokdo is theirs.
Japan’s perspective and behavior has become dangerously outrageous. The periodic repentant tone of past governments vanished in the Abe administration. Tokyo instead is picking fights with neighbors through distortions and heightened sovereignty claims. It cannot be expected to have a cooperative relationship with Korea with such contentious behavior.
Seoul accepted new terms to settle the “comfort women” issue and signed a military information sharing agreement with Tokyo, despite strong opposition at home. It made the choice for the sake of joint actions to contain North Korea and regional stability. But Tokyo is jeopardizing the fragile relationship through its provocations over Dokdo. It must stop its claims and provocations if it has any concern about our future relationship. A U.S. federal court last week killed a suit by a Japanese rightist group demanding the removal of a statue symbolizing comfort women in Glendale, California.
Tokyo must come to the awareness that history and truth do not change from stubborn insistence. It also should maintain a minimum of decency.
JoongAng Ilbo, April 1, Page 26.