The presidential helicopter S-92 landed on Koreas easternmost islets of Dokdo at 2 p.m. Friday. The volcanic islets were incorporated into Korean territory in 512 A.D., or the 13th year of King Jijeungs reign of the ancient Shilla Kingdom. Friday, however, also marked the first time for a Korean president to visit Dokdo. The presidents trip to show the world Koreas sovereignty over Dokdo was timely because his visit came just days before Korean Independence Day (Aug. 15). Korea should respond strongly to any attempt to infringe on its territorial sovereignty.
Seoul`s approach toward the Dokdo dispute has been called quiet diplomacy because Dokdo has practically been under Korean control. The Korean government reasoned that as long as Dokdo is Korean territory both historically and legally under international law, reacting to every strategic attempt by Japan, which has tried to make Dokdo an internationally disputed area, would be unwise.
Japan`s central and provincial governments as well as civic groups have sporadically claimed Dokdo as their territory. Shimane Prefecture of Japan declared Takeshima Day, with Takesima the Japanese term for the islets. Japans annual defense white paper has claimed Dokdo as Japanese territory since 2005. Japans Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry has had Japanese students incorrectly taught that Dokdo is Japanese territory through textbook. Tokyo recently went so far as to ask Seoul to retract its sovereignty claims to Dokdo in Koreas diplomacy white paper for this year.
President Lees visit to Dokdo is a warning to Japans attempts to invade Dokdo and twist history. This presidential visit was made under the recognition that a change in Japans attitude could no longer be expected. Japanese media have downplayed the meaning of his surprise visit to Dokdo as a political attempt to recover his popularity toward the end of his term. Yet Japans persistent provocations over Dokdo apparently played a greater role in prompting President Lee to visit Dokdo.
Certain experts warn that the presidents visit to Dokdo will bring greater losses than gains by inevitably putting more strain on relations between Korea and Japan. Tokyo filed a complaint with the Korean ambassador to Japan and recalled the countrys ambassador in Korea. Japanese Land and Transport Minister Hata Yuichi emotionally responded to President Lees visit to Dokdo and said he would personally pay a visit to the Yasukuni Shrine, which houses the remains of Class-A war criminals. Yet Korea should not be intimidated by these reactions from Japan.
Japans attempt to possess Korean territory instead of expressing sincere repentance over past wrongdoings makes Koreans wonder if Japan intends to build a partnership with Korea. Strained relations between both countries can be normalized only when Japan makes a sincere apology to Korea for past atrocities and retracts its obstinate claim to Dokdo.