Tensions in East Asia have risen, as an old territorial dispute between South Korea and Japan has resurfaced. The territory in question: the Takeshima Islets, or Dokdo, as they are referred to in South Korea.
On February 22, the Japanese celebrated “Takeshima Day,” which was meant to highlight their claim to the territory. To further strengthen their show of power, Tokyo sent a governmental official to the ceremony. Per the Wall Street Journal, the official who attended was Cabinet Office Parliamentary Secretary Yohei Matsumoto. Regarding the international dispute, he stated that the government will “persevere with every effort to resolve the problem.”
However, since 1954, when South Korea laid claim to the islands, there have been coastguard regiments stationed around the territory. Additionally, South Korea maintains a naval exclusion zone surrounding the islands.
According to the Global Post, Korean foreign ministry spokesman Noh Kwang-il issued a statement condemning the Japanese government’s behavior.
“It’s really deplorable that the Japanese government once again had a high-ranking official attend a provocative event hosted by a local government … We want to remind the Japanese government once again that we don’t tolerate any provocation on Dokdo, which is unequivocally our territory historically, geographically and by international law.”
He went on to emphasize that Japan’s actions constitute “regressive behavior.” In that, the South Korean government now questions the sincerity of Japan’s pledge to open relations between the two nations.
Upon the celebration of Takeshima Day, 150 South Korean citizens, who are members of a civic group, protested in front of the Japanese embassy. Their purpose was to convince Japan to end the celebration of their ownership of the islets.
“Japan should annul the designation of Takeshima Day … In addition, Tokyo should immediately stop the annual event and attempts to distort history through textbooks … Japan, despite knowing very well that Dokdo is our territory, has tried to take the islets away from us every year. They even chose a textbook that teaches (such nonsense) to their future generations.”
Per the Japan Times, the prefectural government of Shimane instituted Takeshima Day in 2005, and has held an annual ceremony in the city of Matsue since.
Nonetheless, South Korea has laid claim to the Dokdo Islets since the end of their colonization by the Japanese in the early part of the 20th century. In 1965, both nations agreed to a treaty that normalized diplomatic relations. However, territorial disputes remain and seemingly grow stronger.
[Image by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images]