Make clear intention to protect inherent territory of Takeshima islands

This year marks 70 years since the islands of Takeshima were illegally occupied by South Korea, which claimed them as its territory. The Japanese government needs to make clear its intention to protect the territory and work to convey to the global community relevant information about the legitimacy of Takeshima being part of Japan’s inherent territory.

A ceremony organized by the Shimane prefectural government and other entities was to be held in Matsue today to commemorate Takeshima Day, Feb. 22. The ceremonial day was decided based on the prefectural ordinance as the prefectural government incorporated Takeshima into the prefecture on that date in 1905.

The central government will send Hiroo Kotera, parliamentary vice minister of the Cabinet Office, to the ceremony. The government must take seriously its responsibility for letting the illegal occupation of the islands continue for such a long time.

Japan established its territorial rights to Takeshima in the mid-17th century. Under the San Francisco Peace Treaty, which was signed after the end of World War II, the islands were not included among the territories Japan should renounce.

Based on this background, it is obvious that the Takeshima islands are part of Japan’s inherent territory, both historically and under international law.

However, South Korea established the so-called Syngman Rhee Line in the Sea of Japan and incorporated the islands into its territory in January 1952, just before Japan regained independence. The unilateral change of the status quo by force can never be allowed.

Japan has so far called for dealing with the Takeshima issue on the basis of the rule of law and through dialogue, via such measures as proposing referring the case to the International Court of Justice.

Persistent efforts are needed to strongly urge the South Korean government to respond to the Takeshima issue through judicial settlement or other means, by explaining the historical background and facts to the international community and expanding understanding. The Japanese government should further expedite its research on materials concerning Takeshima and swiftly make the analysis section regarding Takeshima on its website multilingual.

It is extremely regrettable that there is no end to the moves by South Korea to try to make its illegal occupation an established fact.

Just before the vice foreign ministerial-level meeting among Japan, the United States and South Korea in the United States in November last year, the commissioner general of South Korea’s National Police Agency set foot on Takeshima. Japan protested against it and the planned joint press conference for the trilateral meeting was canceled, disrupting the unity of the three countries.

Amid the mounting threats from North Korea, if South Korea continues to repeat self-righteous behavior that causes difficulties for trilateral security cooperation, this will not benefit Tokyo, Washington, or Seoul.

In January this year, the administration of South Korean President Moon Jae-in presented ambassadors of each country in South Korea with a gift on which an illustration believed to be of Takeshima was drawn. The South Korean government and its politicians should refrain from activities that use Takeshima for political purposes.

The 70-year history regarding the Takeshima issue shows that it is not easy to regain territory once illegal occupation is permitted. There are no prospects for a solution to the northern territories issue off Hokkaido, and China has repeatedly intruded into Japanese territorial waters around the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture.

It is hoped that the Japanese government will strengthen measures steadily to protect its sovereignty and improve education about Japan’s territory for younger generations.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on Feb. 22, 2022.