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U.S. navy uncertain on naming East Sea

The U.S. military referred to the East Sea as both the “Sea of Japan,” a name that has long irritated Koreans and the “seas east of the Korean Peninsula.”

It has been found that the U.S. Navy uses “Sea of Japan” in some articles and captions on its website about the recent South Korea-U.S. joint military exercise.

The U.S. Navy also used the sensitive term in a photo caption describing Defense Minister Kim Tae-young’s visit on Tuesday to the aircraft carrier USS George Washington.

However, from July 25-26, it used the “East Sea” in captions describing some of the allies’ core military assets deployed in the four-day exercise, which was conducted to show off the combined military might against North Korea.

Observers here said that it was not appropriate for the U.S. military to use only “Sea of Japan” without due consideration of how the expression will be received by the citizens here especially when it was talking about the joint exercises with South Korea.

Many Koreans have been upset at the reference to its territorial waters as the “Sea of Japan” in international maps and books. The government has been calling on the international community to use both names as the international standard.

Apparently recognizing the public sentiment against the expression, U.S. Forces Korea has referred to the East Sea as the “seas east of Korea.”

The public displeasure came to a head when Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell used the sensitive name while talking about the joint exercise in a meeting with reporters on July 14.

On July 17, Rep. Won Hee-ryong of the ruling Grand National Party, who chairs the parliamentary committee on foreign affairs and trade, sent letters to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates concerning the expression.

Pointing out that the naming of the East Sea is considered to be a sensitive matter to Koreans, Won said in the letters, “I expect nations concerned and their officials will pay attention to Korea’s stance until these issues are settled smoothly through international agreement.”

By Song Sang-ho (sshluck@heraldcorp.com)
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