Korea on Wednesday called on Japan to rescind its plan to set up a new government body responsible for territorial sovereignty policies to reinforce its claim to neighboring islands including Dokdo.
The Foreign Ministry expressed regret, calling the plan “unacceptable.”
Japan’s NHK reported that the organization would be installed within the Cabinet Secretariat. It said the office will deal with policies on the Korean islets in the East Sea, the Senkaku or Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea claimed by China, and the Russia-administered Kuril Islands, which Japan calls the Northern Territories.
The announcement is “very regrettable behavior that shows it is still not repenting for its history of imperialist invasions,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Cho Tai-young told a regular briefing.
“We strongly protest and demand it immediately withdraw such a retrograde measure.”
The envisioned office is the latest in a string of policies that have been fueling neighboring countries’ worries over Tokyo’s rapid rightward swing.
Under the plan, the Japanese government will step up its advertising blitz at home and abroad and boost cooperation with other related government agencies, Okinawa and Northern Territories Affairs Minister Ichita Yamamoto was cited as saying by NHK.
New Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s hawkish pledges are poised to further strain relations between Seoul and Tokyo, which remain frosty due also to Japan’s refusals to atone for atrocities during its 1910-1945 colonial rule.
With North Korea’s third nuclear test appearing imminent, the shift is feared to undercut critical policy coordination between the two countries and together with the U.S., their solid ally.
In December, President-elect Park Geun-hye eschewed Abe’s early overture by delaying a visit by his special envoys, citing a “tight schedule.”
Abe, a staunch nationalist, articulated his desire to rewrite the country’s pacifist constitution to boost defense spending and expand the use of its Self Defense Forces.
He has also vowed to visit the Yasukuni Shrine honoring top war criminals, revise a watershed 1993 apology for war crimes and hold a nationwide Takeshima Day claiming Japan’s sovereignty over Dokdo.
By Shin Hyon-hee (email@example.com