July 15, 2008 08:21
The Japanese government on Monday announced new guidelines for school teachers that effectively state Tokyo's territorial claim to Korea's Dokdo islets.
Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura and Education and Science Minister Kisaburo Tokai revealed the new teaching guidelines for middle-school textbooks at a press conference in the afternoon. Tokyo notified the South Korean government of the revised guidelines two hours before the announcement.
As expected, the claim to the Korean islets is couched in reference to the Kuril Islands, which Japan is disputing with Russia. Although the Kuril Islands "are our inherent territory, they are illegally occupied by Russia," the guidelines say.
Then they add, "It is necessary to deepen understanding about our country's territory in a way identical with the Kuril Islands by mentioning that there exist differing assertions between our country and Korea over Takeshima," the Japanese name for Dokdo.
The guidelines will apply from 2012; the current teaching guidelines make no reference to Dokdo.
While they express no direct territorial claim to Dokdo, they imply illegal occupation by Korea in saying the islets should be treated "in a way identical with the Kuril Islands."
Japanese middle school students are to be taught under the revised guidelines from 2012. As they apply to textbook compilation, references to Dokdo, now confined to four out of 14 middle school textbooks, are expected to mushroom.
President Lee Myung-bak instructed the Cabinet to deal with Japan's fresh claim "sternly and strictly." Cheong Wa Dae spokesman Lee Dong-kwan quoted the president as saying Korea's ownership of the islands "is a historical fact and belongs to an area of territorial sovereignty." He expressed "deep regret and disappointment" at the guidelines.
A government official said Japan "must be seen as unresponsive to President Lee's offer to develop the bilateral relationship in a future-oriented manner." He added it matters little whether Japan used direct or indirect expressions in the new teaching guidelines. The criterion of judgement "is whether Japan has used an expression asserting its claim to Dokdo, our inherent territory."
The government took concerted action, recalling Ambassador to Japan Kwon Chul-hyun temporarily and reinforcing control of Dokdo. It is to review whether to go ahead with diplomatic events with Japan like the Korea-China-Japan summit tentatively slated for September, and Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda's visit to Seoul depending on developments.
Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan on Monday summoned Japanese Ambassador to Seoul Toshinori Shigeie to lodge an official protest. Foreign Ministry spokesman Moon Tae-young in a statement urged the Japanese government to "immediately suspend improper attempts to assail our territorial rights over Dokdo."
The Ministry of Land, Transport and Marine Affairs, meanwhile, decided to pursue 14 projects with a view to strengthening effective control of the islets. Included are building fishermen's quarters on the islets, preservation of the ecosystem and natural environment on and around Dokdo and establishing a Dokdo control system linked with nearby Ulreung Island.
The Education, Science and Technology Minister sent a letter of protest to the Japanese education and science minister, and the National Police Agency plans to reinforce guard operations in waters around Dokdo.
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