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(Yonhap Editorial) Japan's irrational claim to Dokdo

All News 17:09 September 10, 2010

SEOUL, Sept. 10 (Yonhap) -- Japan's latest claim to the South Korean islets of Dokdo in its annual defense white paper shows the country's dual plays in its Korea policy. While repeating "apology" for its colonization of Korea a century ago, the Japanese government has not changed its stance with regard to territorial claims to Dokdo, even after the change of power. It is the first defense paper under the leadership of the Democratic Party of Japan, which has often stressed the importance of "forward-looking" relations with South Korea.

Japan approved its 2010 defense white paper Friday, which stated that "The territorial issue of Takeshima, historically the territory of Japan, remains unresolved," referring to the Japanese name of the islets. The paper has used the same language on Dokdo, located off South Korea's east coast, since 2005.

We take note that it was only a month ago that Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan expressed "deep remorse" and a "heartfelt apology" for Japan's colonization of Korea a century ago and declared his resolve to deepen bilateral ties with South Korea. In his Liberation Day message, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak assessed Kan's apology and promise as "one step forward."

We cannot but interpret such an "oblivious and irrational claim" of Japan as an act tantamount to the offender's rejection of the good intentions doled out by the sufferer.

It is very natural that the South Korean Foreign Ministry immediately issued a strong statement denouncing the Japanese move and called in a Japanese envoy to lodge a protest because, after all, it is very obvious that the rocky islets that South Korea effectively controls are historically -- and indisputably -- Korean territory.

"We demand Japan's immediate withdrawal of its territorial claim to Dokdo. We would once again like to clarify that Dokdo is clearly our territory, in terms of history, geography and international law. We will sternly respond to any attempt to infringe upon our sovereignty over Dokdo," a ministry official said.

South Korea has stationed coast guards on Dokdo since 1954 as a symbol of its ownership. Dokdo lies 90 kilometers east of South Korea's Ulleung Island in the East Sea, while the closest Japanese territory of Oki Island in Shimane Prefecture is more than 160 kilometers away. The prefecture in 2005 designated Feb. 22 as "Takeshima Day."

The annual repeat of Japan's claim to Dokdo in the defense white paper for six years brings to the forefront the painful history of Japan's colonial rule of Korea. The Japanese government and its people should understand that repeating the irrational claim only vividly reminds the Korean people of Japan's atrocities in the past. Without renunciation of claims to Dokdo there will not be a real resolution to the past, thus hampering the bright future of friendship between the two neighboring countries.


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