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Seoul protests Japan’s renewed Dokdo claims

By Kim So-hyun

Published : April 27, 2021 - 15:03

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Hirohisa Soma, deputy chief of mission at the Japanese Embassy, arrives at the foreign ministry in Seoul on Tuesday. (Yonhap) Hirohisa Soma, deputy chief of mission at the Japanese Embassy, arrives at the foreign ministry in Seoul on Tuesday. (Yonhap)
The Foreign Ministry called in a Japanese diplomat Tuesday to protest Tokyo’s renewed territorial claims over South Korea’s easternmost islets of Dokdo in its annual foreign policy paper.

The 2021 diplomatic blue book, an analysis of last year’s international affairs and record of Japan’s diplomatic activities, was the first issued under Japanese Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide, who took office in September.

The ministry expressed regret to Hirohisa Soma, deputy chief of mission at the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, after Japanese foreign minister Motegi Toshimitsu reported the new edition of the blue book during a Cabinet meeting presided over by Suga earlier Tuesday.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Choi Young-sam urged Japan to immediately retract its “futile” claims to Dokdo.

“We make it clear again that the government will respond sternly to any kind of provocation by the Japanese government regarding Dokdo,” he said in a statement, noting that Dokdo is clearly South Korean territory historically, geographically and by international law.

Under Suga’s predecessor Abe Shinzo, Japan stated its claims on Dokdo in the blue book, and added a phrase “illegally occupied by South Korea” in 2018.

In the annual diplomatic report, the Japanese government also retained its position that the South Korean government should be responsible for compensating Koreans who were forced into sexual slavery and hard labor by colonial Japan during the World War II.

The South Korean government “strongly demands” that the Japanese government takes steps in line with its own apology made in the 1993 Kono Statement and the 2015 settlement between the two countries for the victims of wartime sexual slavery.

Suga’s Cabinet follows the foreign affairs stance of Abe’s, sticking to the position that all claims arising from its colonial rule, such as those involving the victims of wartime sexual slavery and hard labor have all been settled by the 1965 treaty that established diplomatic relations between the two nations, as well as the 2015 comfort women agreement.

Under the 1965 treaty, Japan provided South Korea with $500 million in aid and affordable loans.

In this year’s blue book, Japan explained that it is working with the international community such as South Korea and the US toward the goal of denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and that resolving the issue of North Korea’s abduction of Japanese citizens was its “most important task.”

The annual foreign policy paper used stronger expressions on China, expressing “concern” on the human rights situations in Hong Kong and Xinjiang, and stating China’s expansion of military capabilities and activities in the East and South China Seas pose “strong security concerns” in the region and to the international community

About the conflict between the US and China, it said “the power balance in the international community is changing greatly.”

The blue book also said Suga’s summit with US President Joe Biden at the White House on April 16 strengthened bilateral ties, but did not mention “the importance of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait,” which was included in the joint statement issued after the summit.

Kyodo News said the omission appears to be in consideration of backlash from China, which sees Taiwan as a renegade province to be reunited with the mainland.

By Kim So-hyun (sophie@heraldcorp.com)