Seoul protests Tokyo’s new Dokdo museum

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Seoul protests Tokyo’s new Dokdo museum

Korea on Thursday strongly protested Japan’s establishment of an exhibition hall intended to promote its claims to Korea’s easternmost islets of Dokdo.

“Our government strongly protests the Japanese government’s opening of the territorial sovereignty exhibit hall in Tokyo to make its unjustifiable claims to Dokdo, which is our inherent territory. We demand its immediate closure,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement issued in the name of its spokesman. “It also should be remembered that proper historical recognition serves as the foundation for Korea-Japan relations.”

The Foreign Ministry called in Katsuro Kitagawa, a minister for political affairs at the Japanese embassy in Korea. The Seoul government also lodged a protest with Japan’s foreign ministry, officials said.

On Thursday, Japan opened the exhibit hall in central Tokyo to provide the public with information on Dokdo and Senkaku in the East China Sea, known as Diaoyu in China.

Dokdo, called Takeshima in Japan, consists of a set of rocky islets lying close to the Korean Peninsula in the East Sea. It has long been a recurring source of tension between the neighbors.

Korea has kept a small police detachment there since the liberation of the Korean Peninsula from Japan in 1945 and has made clear that Tokyo’s claims are utterly groundless.

Earlier this week, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono said in a parliamentary speech that the islets are part of Japan’s territory and that he will make persistent efforts to strengthen the case for Japanese ownership down the road.

The new dispute erupted one day after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed his willingness to attend the opening ceremony of next month’s PyeongChang Winter Olympics, raising cautious optimism about bilateral relations strained over a controversial deal on Japan’s wartime sexual slavery of Korean women.

Abe’s offer followed months of speculation that he would not attend the event due to his opposition to what he calls the Seoul government’s push to undermine the 2015 deal, under which the two sides agreed to once and for all resolve the grievances of women forced into frontline brothels during World War II.

Under the deal reached on Dec. 28, 2015, the neighbors agreed to “finally and irreversibly” resolve the comfort women issue. Tokyo apologized for its colonial-era atrocities and pledged 1 billion yen ($9.2 million) to a foundation dedicated to supporting the victims. Korea recently completed a review of the deal and concluded that sufficient efforts were not made to reflect the views of victims before reaching the accord.

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