China has taken note of a move by the U.S. state of Virginia to require school textbooks to use both names used by South Korea and Japan for a body of water between them, Beijing's foreign ministry said Saturday.
For decades, South Korea and Japan have locked horns over the name of the body of water, with Seoul calling it the "East Sea" while Tokyo uses the name "Sea of Japan."
In a victory for ethnic Koreans in Virginia against high-profile lobbying by the Japanese Embassy in Washington, the U.S. state's Senate overwhelmingly passed a bill this week that will require textbooks to concurrently use East Sea and Sea of Japan to refer to the sea between the Korean Peninsula and Japan.
"We have noted the relevant report," China's foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said in a faxed statement to Yonhap News Agency, when asked about Beijing's stance on the naming issue.
"China has consistently maintained its scientific and strict stance on naming issues with regard to publications and maps," Qin said.
South Korea has long campaigned for the adoption of its favored name for the waters that are widely termed the Sea of Japan, since Japan registered that as the official name with the International Hydrographic Organization in the early 1920s, when Korea was under Japan's colonial rule.
The naming issue is particularly sensitive for Seoul as Tokyo has continually stepped up efforts to claim the South Korean islets of Dokdo in the East Sea. South Korea keeps a small police detachment on the volcanic outcroppings.
Korean historians and experts believe the sea's original name was the East Sea, but that the term Sea of Japan became more widely adopted because Korea failed to properly counter Japan's campaign to change the name due to colonization by Japan and the 1950-53
Korean War. (Yonhap News)