Foreign ministry’s sterile reaction
Diplomacy is the art of finesse. Maybe, our Ministry of Foreign Affairs is turning it into metaphysics, meaning they have become too mellow and stuck in mannerisms in their very important mission of protecting the national interest.
One such case took place in its reaction to Japan’s claim, contained in its latest diplomatic Blue Book out Friday, that Dokdo, part of Korea’s sovereign territory was theirs.
This was not the first time that Japan has claimed Korea’s easternmost islets and maybe, the ministry was resorting to its oft-used strategic quietness, meaning that it wants to keep the matter low profile, believing Tokyo wants to make a fuss over it and strengthen its claim.
The disappointing part of the foreign ministry’s response was its apparent failure to reflect the people’s sentiment about Japan’s Dokdo claim, which was made manifest by its knee-jerk, conflicting set of responses.
Following the announcement, the ministry’s spokesman Cho Byung-jae expressed “deepest regret,” threatening to deal sternly with any action by Tokyo to violate Korea’s sovereignty.
But the ministry summoned Hirataka Matsuo, a counselor at the Japanese embassy in Seoul rather than a higher envoy.
What the ministry was seeking was made obvious when a ranking Korean diplomat said an angry reaction is not helpful at all, rather it could give Japan assistance to reinforce its territorial claim over Dokdo.
“We should set strategy and react to the matter considering the fact that Dokdo is occupied by Korea,” the diplomat said on condition of anonymity. “What we should do now is not have an angry reaction. We need to reinforce our historical and physical evidence backing our ownership of Dokdo, while expanding the international support base for Korea’s sovereignty.”
Japan is intensifying its criticism on Korea in recent months in an apparent effort to provoke Koreans, who are still extremely sensitive to such matters as a result of its colonization of the peninsula between 1910 and 1945.
A cool-headed approach may be a solution to this kind of historically-entangled nation-to-nation dispute but it has not produced any tangible results.
By some estimates, Tokyo has made headway in persuading the world to agree more than before to its claim. Then, isn’t it time to be angry and show it by stepping out from diplomatic niceties.
Friday’s claim over Seoul’s easternmost islets was the second out of three provocations of this kind this year, following one late last month by Tokyo’s approval of the description of Dokdo as Japanese territory in high school textbooks.
The third ㅡ hopefully last ㅡ provocation is slated for April 11. A group of right-wing activists there plan to stage a performance in Tokyo, criticizing Seoul for “illegally occupying” Dokdo, which they call Takeshima.