The White House has posted a response to a petition drive by Koreans on its website seeking to include "East Sea" as the name for the body of water between Korea and Japan on U.S. maps. The White House said it stands by the name "Sea of Japan" currently in use but this "in no way implies an opinion regarding any issue related to sovereignty."
The comments were posted by Kurt Campbell, the assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, on the White House blog "We the People." The U.S. government must respond to any petition that garners more than 25,000 signatures.
"It is longstanding United States policy to refer to each sea or ocean by a single name. This policy applies to all seas, including those bordered by multiple countries that may each have their own names for such bodies of water," Campbell said in the response, which was posted in English, Korean and Japanese.
Campbell's response signals that Washington does not wish to get involved in the dispute. "We are aware the Republic of Korea refers to the body of water as the 'East Sea,' and the United States is not asking the Republic of Korea to change its nomenclature," Campbell said. "We understand that this naming issue is an important and sensitive one for both the Republic of Korea and Japan," he added.
In March and April this year, two petitions were posted on the White House blog. The Korean petition said that the "Sea of Japan" nomenclature was adopted when Korea was under occupation by Japan and should not be considered valid; it drew 102,043 signatures. The Japanese petition, which defended the nomenclature, drew 29,160 signatures.
Three other petitions have been posted on the website including a request by Japanese residents of Palisades Park, New Jersey seeking to remove a statue commemorating the "comfort woman" forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese military during World War II.