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Korea protests Dokdo claims in Japanese defense paper

Sept 28,2019
The Foreign Ministry called in a senior Japanese diplomat to lodge a protest Friday after Tokyo’s annual defense white paper renewed claims to Korea’s easternmost islets of Dokdo, officials said.

Lee Sang-ryeol, acting director-general for Asia and Pacific affairs, summoned Taisuke Mibae, the minister for political affairs at the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, the ministry said. The Defense Ministry summoned Tatsuya Watanabe, a Japanese defense attache, to lodge a complaint.

“The government strongly protested the Japanese side’s repeated claim of unfair sovereignty over Dokdo, which is clearly our own territory historically, geographically and by international law, and we urged Tokyo to withdraw the claim immediately,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Earlier in the day, Tokyo released its 2019 defense white paper, in which it renewed the territorial claims. Referring to July’s incursion by a Russian warplane into the airspace over Dokdo, the white paper said Japan filed a protest with Korea for firing warning shots toward the Russian aircraft.

The description is based on the claim that Dokdo is Japanese territory.

In the section on airspace violations and scrambling, the book also said that airspace violations are dealt with by the Air Self-Defense Force based on Article 84 of the Self-Defense Force Act. When put together with the territorial claims over Dokdo, the phrase suggests Japan could scramble fighter jets if the airspace over the islets is violated.

Seoul also complained to Tokyo about a part in the white paper describing Seoul’s decision to end a bilateral military information-sharing pact with Tokyo as “a disappointment” and indicating that South Korea is to take the blame for the badly frayed ties stemming from a row over history and trade.

The white paper cited a recent remark by its defense minister, Takeshi Iwaya, that he was deeply disappointed by Seoul’s decision on the General Security of Military Information Agreement (Gsomia) and that Tokyo will ask Seoul to reconsider the decision before it expires in November.

Seoul pointed out that it was Japan who first imposed export curbs on South Korea and again demanded a swift reversal of the unfair measures, it said.

Earlier in the day, the Foreign Ministry said that repeating the “unfair and absurd” claim to Dokdo is not helpful to the South Korea-Japan relationship.

“The government will once again make it clear that the unfair claims of the Japanese government do not affect our sovereignty over Dokdo, the unique territory of [South] Korea, and will respond firmly to any provocations by the Japanese government against Dokdo.”

Japan has laid its claim to the islets in the white paper every year since 2005.

Late last month, South Korea’s military conducted drills on and around the Dokdo islets in the East Sea, in a show of Seoul’s determination not to back down in an escalating row with Japan over wartime history and trade. Korea has maintained effective control of the rocky outcroppings off the east coast with a small police detachment since 1945. Japan has persistently laid claim to Dokdo, drawing strong condemnation from Seoul.

The foreign ministers of Korea and Japan held talks in New York Thursday but produced no breakthrough in a row over trade and wartime history.

Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha met with her new Japanese counterpart, Toshimitsu Motegi, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, their first meeting since Motegi took office earlier this month.

Kang said the two sides reiterated their respective positions on the bilateral dispute, which has seen Tokyo impose export controls on Seoul in apparent retaliation for a South Korean court ruling against Japan’s use of forced labor during its 1910-45 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.

Still, she said, the two agreed to continue “frank communication” through diplomatic channels and work toward a future-oriented bilateral relationship.

“We agreed to continue communication and consultations at every level of our diplomatic channels, including at the minister level, at every opportunity,” she told reporters after the meeting.

Yonhap