|Korean activists protest at the Japanese Embassy in Seoul on Friday as Japan’s Shimane Prefecture holds an event to celebrate “Takeshima Day.” (Lee Sang-sub/The Korea Herald)|
Conflicts have grown over Dokdo after Tokyo has renewed its territorial claims to the rocky outcroppings in the East Sea, or the body of water between the Korean Peninsula and Japan.
Souring the relations even further, Japan’s Shimane Prefecture, which claims administrative sovereignty over the islets, designated Feb. 22 as a day to promote Takeshima, the Japanese name for Dokdo, in 2006, and has since hosted various programs to strengthen its claims on the day, with no exception this year.
“The South Korean government once again sternly urged Japan to abolish ordinances about the designation of the Dokdo day and to immediately stop unjustifiable territorial claims to Dokdo,”Foreign Ministry spokesman Cho Tai-young said in a statement.
The Seoul government in particular criticized Japan for its dispatch of Aiko Shimajiri, a parliamentary secretary with the Cabinet Office, to the event. Her attendance marks the first time that the central government had its senior official attend the ceremony.
|Aiko Shimajiri, a parliamentary secretary at Japan’s Cabinet Office, addresses the “Takeshima Day” ceremony. (Yonhap News)|
“We expressed deep regrets over and strongly protested Tokyo’s sending of a government official to such an unjustifiable event,”
Cho said, calling on it to show “a genuine willingness for the bilateral development by stopping its unjustifiable and meaningless territorial rights.”
Declaring once again that the islets are “an integral part of Korean territory historically, geographically and under international law,” the South Korean government vowed “stern responses to any attempt to violate its territorial rights.”
South Korea keeps a small police detachment on the islets, effectively controlling them.
In protest against the event, Seoul’s foreign ministry summoned Takashi Kurai, Japan’s deputy chief in Seoul, and sent a diplomatic document to express regret and convey South Korea’s resolute stance on the issue, according to the ministry officials.
The provocative act drew protests from high-profile figures in South Korea as well as from the public nationwide.
Kim Kwan-yong, governor of North Gyeongsang Province which administers the district of the Dokdo islets, issued a statement earlier in the day denouncing the Japanese central government for sending an official to the event.
“The decision to send a vice-ministerial figure to the ceremony constitutes a grave criminal act,” Kim said. “The provocation riddled with such an inflammatory politics and regressive historical concept deserves criticism.”
In front of the Japanese embassy in downtown Seoul, some 100 people held a press conference demanding that Tokyo abolish its day laying claims to South Korea’s islets and to stop holding such events.
In a letter delivered to the Japanese embassy, the group said they have been trying “to regard Japan as a neighbor and to share their sorrow inflicted by the earthquake and tsunami,” and asked Japan to be “a true neighbor instead of seeking an aggressive attitude.” (Yonhap News)