South Koreans Denounce Japans Claim Over Dokdo Islets

kpopluv, April 7, 2015, 10:28 a.m.

South Korea Tuesday protested Japan's foreign policy report that renewed Tokyo's claim to South Korea's easternmost islets of Dokdo.  In the 2015 Diplomatic Bluebook, released earlier in the day, the Shinzo Abe administration argued that the pair of outcroppings in the East Sea is Japanese territory based on historical facts and international law.

It came a day after Japan's education ministry irked South Koreans by unveiling the results of its regular review of textbooks for middle school students.  Seoul's foreign ministry called in Kenji Kanasugi, a minister at the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, to lodge a complaint with the Japanese government.

"Despite our government's repeated warnings, the Japanese government yesterday carried out the provocation of reviewing and passing middle school textbooks that distort, reduce and omit the historical facts and today repeated the historically regressive move of passing through the Cabinet a Diplomatic Bluebook containing unjust claims regarding the issues of Dokdo and the victims of sexual slavery for Japanese soldiers," foreign ministry spokesman Noh Kwang-il said in a statement.

The spokesman stressed that the "historical truth" about Dokdo and the sex slaves "cannot be erased or revised" regardless of Tokyo's claims.  The policy report also described South Korea as an important nation, whereas last year's edition described it as a country that shares basic values and interests with Japan.

Speaking during a regular press briefing, Noh said the government has nothing to say on the change of expression. He noted, however, that what is important is for the Japanese government to "seriously think about ways and make efforts to overcome the past (and move) toward future-oriented bilateral ties."  In 2011, only 4 out of 18 total textbooks contained Tokyo's claim that South Korea is illegally occupying Dokdo, where a small dispatch of Seoul's police are stationed as a token of its ownership.

This year, the number jumped to 13, representing the Shinzo Abe administration's attempt to bolster its efforts to lay claim to Dokdo.  Japan's move, which South Korean officials describe as a provocation, apparently undermined efforts to improve relations between the neighboring nations. Seoul-Tokyo ties have long been strained despite brisk economic and cultural exchanges due to long-standing stand-offs over territory and shared history.

It's a legacy of Japan's brutal colonial rule of Korea from 1910-45. South Koreans believe Japan has never offered a sincere apology for its wartime atrocities.  Continued disputes between Seoul and Tokyo are a major stumbling block to Washington's push for closer trilateral cooperation in regional security amid growing military threats from Pyongyang.

Amid persisting tension, Japan's Kyodo news agency cited diplomatic sources as saying on Monday that the two countries will hold their first security dialogue in more than five years next Tuesday.  The dialogue, involving senior foreign affairs and defense officials from both sides, was launched in 1998 to discuss each other's defense policies and North Korea's nuclear and missile programs. It has been suspended since the last session in December 2009 due to disputes over shared history.  Asked to verify the report, Noh said the two sides have yet to agree on a specific date, although talks have been under way.

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