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“Concessions on Territorial Integrity Unthinkable”

Posted March. 16, 2005 22:03,   


The Korean government is scheduled to announce on Thursday a doctrine forewarning Japan that despite the continuation of friendly and forward-looking relations between the two countries, infringement of Korea’s sovereignty and territorial integrity will not be overlooked. This comes on the heels of the passage on Wednesday by local representatives in Japan’s Shimane prefecture of an ordinance establishing a commemorative “Takeshima Day.” Takeshima is the Japanese term for Dokdo, an island in the East Sea that is garrisoned by Korea and claimed by Japan.

This basic principle governing Korea-Japan relations was laid out at the standing committee of the National Security Council on Wednesday, and will be announced tomorrow afternoon by Jeong Woo-sung, the foreign policy assistant to President Roh Moo-hyun, in the form of an official statement to the Japanese government. That the announcement will be made by a Cheong Wa Dae senior official rather than the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade testifies to an effort by the government to convey the doctrine’s reflectiveness of the president’s concern.

The government is currently assembling a set of multi-phased measures such as recalling the Korean ambassador to Tokyo and riding the opposition bandwagon to Japan’s push for membership in the UN Security Council, according to press reports on Wednesday. The measures implemented by the government will be commensurate to the degree of Japan’s insistence on its possession of the islands.

Yu Hong-jun, the administrator of the Cultural Heritage Administration, held an urgent press conference on Wednesday to announce the lifting of restrictions on visits to the islands by reporters and ordinary citizens. The Cultural Heritage Administration is a governmental body charged with the management of natural monuments such as the Dokdo islands, to which access had been granted previously only through the permission of the Cultural Heritage Administration and the governor of Gyeongbuk Province, where the islands are situated.

Mr. Yu announced his intention to grant, to the farthest extent possible, unfettered access to Dokdo, adding that foreign tourists including Japanese citizens will enjoy the same opportunities of visit should their intentions remain apolitical.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesman Lee Kyu-hyung issued a statement demanding the immediate renouncement of the regional ordinance, claiming that the indiscreet move by Shimane Prefecture has no international legal effect and no bearing on the current status of the islands.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade summoned Toshinao Urabe, Japan’s acting ambassador to Korea, and sent Ra Jong-il, the Korean top diplomat to Japan, to the Japanese foreign ministry to express the government’s strong protest over recent developments as well as to request the renunciation of the ordinance.

On Wednesday morning, the Shimane prefectural parliament passed, with the approval of 33 votes out of 38 cast, a bill submitted on February 22 which proposes to establish a “Takeshima Day.”

Following the bill’s passage, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi remarked that historical claims over the islands had long placed the neighboring countries on opposing ends, with each declaring the legitimacy of its stance. “We must manage this issue on the grounds of mutual friendship,” he said.