Japan renewed its claim to a contested island in the Sea of Japan, maintained by South Korea, increasing tensions between neighbors whose relations were already strained because of Seoul’s demands for compensation for Japanese actions in World War II
Monday is the anniversary of the day that Japan placed the island under the jurisdiction of Shimane Prefecture in western Japan in 1905. Japan has held the annual ceremony since 2006 in an attempt to intensify its claim on the island.
The uninhabited islet located in rich fishing grounds off the northwest coast of Shimane is called Takeshima in Japan and Dokdo in South Korea. It has been effectively controlled by South Korea since the 1950s.
Yoshiaki Wada, a Cabinet official who represented the central government at the ceremony in the capital of Matsue province, accused South Korea of ”illegal occupation that has no legal basis under international law”.
“It is totally unacceptable,” he said.
Shimane Governor Tatsuya Maruyama criticized South Korean movements on the island, including military exercises, as “an attempt to make the occupation of Takeshima a fait accompli”, and urged the Japanese government to resolve the dispute through diplomacy.
South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs denounced Japan for continuing “futile provocations” in holding the event.
In a statement, he demanded the abolition of the event and stated that it is clear that the island is South Korean territory because of “history, geography and international law”.
In Tokyo, Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said Japan is determined to protect its territorial rights.
“Takeshima is clearly a Japanese territory according to international law and in the light of historical facts,” he said. “In order to solve the Takeshima problem, it is important to obtain the correct understanding from the international community.”
Relations between the two countries fell to their worst levels with the decisions of South Korean courts that Japan says made “illegal” demands for compensation for the sexual abuse of Korean women and the use of forced Korean workers during World War II.
The dispute over forced labor, stemming from a South Korean Supreme Court ruling in 2018, turned into a trade dispute and led Seoul to threaten to discard a 2016 military intelligence sharing agreement with Japan, a key component of its regional defense cooperation with the United States.
Japan says that all compensation issues during the war were resolved under a 1965 treaty that normalized relations with South Korea, in which Japan provided $ 500 million in economic assistance to the country.
Associated Press editor Kim Tong-hyung in Seoul, South Korea, contributed to this report.
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