Posted November. 08, 2014 07:40,
Prime Minister Chung Hong-won apologized Friday for the government`s controversial decision to shelve its plan to build an emergency evacuation facility on Dokdo, South Korea`s easternmost islets also claimed by Japan. As both the ruling and opposition parties called for the dismissal of the prime minister and Foreign Minister Yoon Byung-se, Chung said, "Dokdo would be best to be kept clean (of a safety facility) in terms of environment, safety and landscape." However, the explanation was not convincing.
The government planned to set up the first visitor facility on Dokdo as part of its 2008 measures to reinforce Seoul`s sovereignty over the islets. This year, 3 billion won (274,000 U.S. dollars) of budget was allocated for the purpose for the first time. During the process of deciding to put off the construction plan, the government failed to hold sufficient discussions among relevant ministries and exposed its lack of insight into the diplomatic impact of the cancelation. It is questionable if government ministries and agencies had consultations over issues involving Dokdo, which Japan is closely watching. If it is true that the construction plan was postponed because of environmental issues, it is an even bigger problem. Failure to consider such issues in advance of accepting bids from builders and then canceling the project reveals lack of collaboration among government ministries.
We cannot trust Chung`s explanation because a recent meeting of relevant ministers focused on soothing unfavorable public opinions following the postponement of the project. Japan`s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the South Korean government made the decision on its own, indicating Tokyo was not aware of how the construction plan was shelved. The government`s bugling put itself to a corner without getting anything from Tokyo.
Building an evacuation facility on Dokdo, where maritime accidents seldom occur, does not generate any substantial effects. No matter how the project was decided on, however, it could have been better if Seoul pushed ahead with the plan even if actual ground breaking would be postponed. Japan is escalating its territorial provocations in an attempt to make Dokdo an area of an international territorial dispute. Seoul should discuss the construction issue from the drawing board.