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Seoul slams Tokyo over Dokdo claim

Hirohisa Soma, a senior Japanese Embassy official, arrives at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs building on Tuesday. (Yonhap)
Hirohisa Soma, a senior Japanese Embassy official, arrives at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs building on Tuesday. (Yonhap)

South Korea on Tuesday urged Japan to retract its territorial claims to Dokdo islets in the East Sea, saying it will “sternly respond” to any provocation by Japan over the islets.

In the 2020 edition of its Diplomatic Bluebook, Japanese Foreign Ministry referred to Dokdo with its Japanese name Takeshima, describing it as Japan’s “inherent territory historically and by international law.” The book claimed that Korea is “illegally occupying” the islets.

Seoul’s Foreign Ministry on Tuesday summoned in Hirohisa Soma, a senior Japanese Embassy official, to lodge a formal protest, expressing regret over the book’s content and urge for Tokyo to retract the claim. 

“We strongly protest that Japan has renewed its unjust territorial claims to Dokdo in its diplomatic bluebook, which is clearly our inherent territory, historically, geographically and internationally, and we urge an immediate retraction of the claims,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Kim In-chul said in a statement.

“We once again make it clear that Japan’s unjust claim cannot affect in any way our sovereignty over Dokdo and that we will sternly respond to any provocations on the islets.”

Meanwhile, Japan labeled Korea as its “most important neighbor” for the first time in three years, unlike the 2017 version where it described as the country “sharing strategic interests with Japan.”

Japan’s latest claim to Dokdo comes as bilateral ties remain icy over a diplomatic feud over wartime labor compensation that has evolved into a trade row, as well as coronavirus entry restrictions.

In October 2018, Korea’s Supreme Court ruled that Japanese firms should pay compensation for their use of Korean workers during World War II, drawing a strong rebuke from Tokyo, which claims related issues were settled under the 1965 agreement.

In the latest diplomatic paper, Japan remained its position that the court ruling is “a violation of international law” and it will continue to strongly demand Korea to rectify.

The two countries have been at loggerheads over Dokdo for decades. The rocky islets have been controlled by Korea, with a small band of Coast Guard officers, since its liberation from Japanese colonial rule in 1945, but Japan has also claimed its sovereignty.

By Ahn Sung-mi (