Japan Must Not Allow South Korea to Control International Perceptions

It is obvious that the Takeshima islands are part of Japan’s inherent territory, both historically and under international law. The government must persistently communicate the legitimacy of Japan’s claim both at home and abroad.

A ceremony organized by the Shimane prefectural government and other entities was to be held in Matsue today [Wednesday], which is Takeshima Day. The event commemorates Feb. 22, 1905, the date when the Shimane prefectural government incorporated Takeshima into the prefecture based on a cabinet decision by the Meiji government. Hideyuki Nakano, a parliamentary vice minister of the Cabinet Office, was scheduled to attend this year’s ceremony as a representative of the central government.

Japan established its territorial rights to Takeshima in the mid-17th century during the Edo period (1603-1867). Various documents have confirmed that merchants of the Tottori clan used Takeshima for collecting abalone and hunting sea lions.

At the time of Takeshima’s incorporation into Shimane Prefecture in 1905, Korea did not protest to Japan. Even 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.

However, in 1952, just before the treaty went into effect, South Korea unilaterally established the so-called Syngman Rhee Line in the Sea of Japan, saying the islands were its territory.

The illegal occupation of Takeshima by South Korea absolutely must not be tolerated.

Three times in the past, Japan has proposed referring the Takeshima issue to the International Court of Justice, but South Korea has refused each time. Negotiations have reached an impasse because the issue cannot be heard by the court without the agreement of both the parties.

Although the administration of South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol is positive about improving relations with Japan, there has been no change in its position regarding Takeshima. Last year, South Korean survey ships were active in the vicinity of Takeshima, and the military conducted drills there.

The Japanese government needs to take a firm stand against South Korea’s unjust actions.

Japan seems to be challenged to not fall behind South Korea in diplomatic strategy.

South Korea is actively lobbying Western nations on the Takeshima issue. In the past, Seoul has served foreign leaders seafood that was presented as being from Dokdo, the Korean name of Takeshima.

Japan must not underestimate such activities by South Korea. Tokyo should improve its own public relations strategy, through such measures as promoting information sharing with overseas research institutes and experts.

In recent years, the Japanese government has in fact been stepping up its efforts to communicate with the world regarding the Takeshima issue. In April last year, it established versions of its “Research and Commentary Site” on the Cabinet Secretariat’s website in both Korean and English.

It is hoped that the government will utilize various means to make Japan’s position known to the international community.

According to an opinion survey conducted by the Cabinet Office last year, more than 70% of Japanese respondents in their 60s and older said they were “interested” in Takeshima, but only 38% of those aged 18-29 and 52% of those in their 30s said so.

The history of Takeshima has shown that when territory is taken by force, it is not easily regained.

It is hoped that the government will further strengthen education and awareness-raising activities regarding the territory.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 22, 2023)