Convey Takeshima issue to world and raise awareness through education

The Takeshima islands are part of Japan’s inherent territory, both historically and under international law. The government must further accelerate its efforts to convey relevant information about Takeshima to the global community and raise the younger generations’ awareness of the islands through education about Japan’s territories.

A ceremony organized by the Shimane prefectural government and other entities was held in Matsue to commemorate Takeshima Day on Feb. 22. Yoshiaki Wada, parliamentary vice minister of the Cabinet Office, attended the ceremony and stressed the government’s intention to aim for the Takeshima issue’s resolution.

The ceremony was held on the date the prefectural government formally incorporated the Takeshima islands into the prefecture in 1905. However, it is essentially the central government’s responsibility to tackle territorial issues, and limiting commemorative events to the one organized by the prefecture cannot be said to be sufficient.

At the end of last month, the Cabinet Secretariat’s Office of Policy Planning and Coordination on Territory and Sovereignty expanded the research and analysis section concerning Takeshima on its website. Based on historical materials, the section recounts how Japan, South Korea and the international community have treated Takeshima in each era.

Since the early Edo period (1603-1867), Japan has used Takeshima as a sea lion hunting ground and for other purposes, and it established its territorial right in the mid-17th century. Under the San Francisco Peace Treaty, which was signed after World War II, the islands were not included among the territories Japan would renounce.

When drafting the treaty, South Korea requested that the United States include Takeshima in the islands that Japan would renounce. But the United States clearly rejected the request, saying that Takeshima had never been treated as part of Korea.

There is no justification for Seoul unilaterally establishing the Syngman Rhee Line in the Sea of Japan and illegally occupying Takeshima as its territory in 1952.

In recent years, the Japanese government conducted examinations in the archives of Britain and Australia and found documents showing that both Britain and Australia shared the United States’ awareness of Takeshima when the peace treaty was signed. The documents are introduced in the research and analysis section on the website of the Cabinet Secretariat.

The government intends to translate the website into English and Korean, and to make videos for that purpose. It should further improve the content of the website and disseminate information related to Takeshima in multiple languages as soon as possible.

Education about territories is also important. In recent years, elementary and junior high school textbooks have carried more descriptions of Takeshima, but this cannot be said to be sufficient compared to the education in South Korea.

Last year, the Japanese government moved the National Museum of Territory and Sovereignty near the Diet Building and enhanced the content of the exhibitions. The museum uses panels and videos to introduce the current situations and the backgrounds of the problems involving Takeshima, the northern territories and the Senkaku Islands. It is hoped that the museum exhibitions will be used for school trips and other purposes in conjunction with tours of the Diet.

According to a South Korean newspaper, the South Korean military last year produced a written scenario in which the Self-Defense Forces “invade” Takeshima, and reported it to South Korea’s parliament.

Japan has called for dealing with the Takeshima issue on the basis of law and through dialogue, and has proposed referring the case to the International Court of Justice. It should strongly urge South Korea to comply with its proposal for a peaceful resolution of the problem.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on Feb. 23, 2021.