Japan Heightens Territorial Claim Over East Sea Islets
By Michael Ha
The Japanese government appears to be boosting its effort to claim Dokdo and is stepping up its publicity campaign over the territorial issue, according to the Korea Dokdo Research Center, part of the Korea Maritime Institute.
The research center said the Korean government must work together with various non-profit groups to effectively counter Japan's strategy.
``The Dokdo sovereignty issue is one of the most important bilateral issues concerning Korea and Japan," according to the group. ``We have to remember that this issue is not something that came up recently. The Japanese government has a long-term view on this topic and has been taking strategic steps in accordance with that view. We feel Koreans need to respond to that in a similar fashion, with an eye on a long-term strategy."
Japan's New Textbook Manuals
The center said the recent announcement from Tokyo regarding new textbook manuals represents Japan's stepped-up effort to claim the islets.
``The Japanese government's recent announcement that it would include a Dokdo sovereignty claim in a school teaching manual is indeed significant. It represents a heightened effort on the part of Japan to claim the islets," according to the center.
``Previously, Japan's central government avoided getting directly involved in this territorial issue. It was usually the regional governments that took various steps on Tokyo's behalf. And the central government simply said these are regional matters," the group said.
``But this time, a central agency is taking an official stance, in what it calls an education on national territories. This is a significant development."
The center noted that there are actually quite a few Japanese who are sharply criticizing Tokyo's claim on Dokdo.
``Some of these Japanese citizens in academia are saying that the Japanese government is hurting the Korea-Japan bilateral relations for no reason at all. They are saying that Dokdo clearly belongs to Korea," according to the center.
``We think the Korean government and various non-profit associations should work together on this issue, to effectively counter Tokyo's long-term strategy to undermine Korea's rightful sovereignty on the islets," the group said. ``We hope the current controversy would prompt Korean academics to undertake more research into this topic."
Countering Tokyo's Publicity Machine
According to the center, what the Japanese government clearly wants is to drag this debate over to the international community and to the International Court of Justice.
``But Dokdo has clearly been part of Korea. No country would consider taking such a clear-cut issue to an international court. Japan wants to take the debate to the international court but we see it as Japan's publicity ploy, to give an impression in the world community that this is a genuine territorial dispute," according to the center.
``Japan's publicity campaign has nothing to do with the even-handed truth. They are just publicizing their argument. We need to inform the international community that Korea has legal, practical sovereignty over the islets."
The group noted that Japan is putting more effort into its territorial claim over Dokdo and is even making a connection between the Dokdo issue and the territorial dispute involving Russia's Kuril Islands.
``The Japanese government argues that in both of these cases, Tokyo lost its sovereignty following the Second World War. Tokyo is saying that it wants to reclaim its territories involving the Kurils and Dokdo."
The center has been active in publicizing and shedding new light on ancient historical documents concerning the islets. The center, founded in 2006, has been focusing researching historical documents and what they reveal about the history of the Dokdo islets and their sovereignty issue.
``We have been looking at various issues around the islets, including international law, history and the region's geography.
``We are also actively engaged in a public relations campaign to inform the international community that Dokdo is indeed part of Korea's indigenous territories," the group said. ``We have been distributing various publications and related information pamphlets printed in several different languages."
The group has been taking steps to counter publicity campaigns underwritten by various Japanese offices and organizations.
The center noted that in March of this year, Japan's Foreign Ministry published a pamphlet called ``Understanding Takeshima."
``That was significant because it marked the first time that Japan's Foreign Ministry had officially published informational material under the ministry's title. So our research center has also been publishing and distributing information pamphlets, as a way to rebuke the ministry's claim."
The group added: ``We are distributing our publication materials both offline and online. We have been getting positive feedback." These publications can be downloaded from the center's Web site at www.kmi.re.kr, as well as from various government Web sites including the homepage for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade at www.mofat.go.kr.
``We recognized the need to inform the international community about the accurate historical background regarding the islets. There are a lot of historical facts and documents that show Dokdo is Korea's indigenous territory."