The Japanese government is moving to take its dubious claim to Korea's Dokdo islets to the International Court of Justice following President Lee Myung-bak's recent visit to the islets. The Korean government does not intend to respond to the move, but Tokyo is likely to make as much noise as possible to give the impression that this is a bona fide territorial dispute.
Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Genba told reporters on Friday and Saturday, "We have refrained from taking the issue to the ICJ until now because we fear that it can do harm to bilateral relations. But now that it seems unnecessary to mind that [with Lee's visit], we want to take the issue to the ICJ."
Japan attempted to present its case over the islets to the ICJ in 1954 and 1962, but to no avail because Korea did not agree. A country can take a dispute to the ICT, but it needs the consent of the other party for the ICT to take any action.
When asked about the matter, Genba said, "Since Korea aspires to be a global country, it must accede." Seiji Maehara, who is being fingered as Japan's next prime minister, said, "If Korea does not accede to the lawsuit, it will be treated as lacking confidence."
Korean officials dismissed the argument. "What do 'Global Korea' or 'confidence' have to do with the prospect of going to court in response to somebody else laying claim to your child?" one Foreign Ministry official here said.
The Japanese central and provincial governments, as well as rightwing groups, are highly likely to voice their claim in a wide range of venues and occasions. "They will try to turn Dokdo into a disputed territory by making a lot of noise," said a government official here.
But the government has no intention of rising to the bait. "There is no reason for us to accede" to having the matter decided by the ICJ, the Foreign Ministry said Sunday. It believes it is preposterous to seek the judgment of a third party when it is clear that Dokdo is Korean territory. A ministry official said, "What's wrong with the president traveling within our own territory? There is no dispute over Dokdo."
Meanwhile, Cheong Wa Dae said on Sunday that it will not take any steps to fortify Dokdo as long as Japan refrains from provocations. A Foreign Ministry official said this decision reflects Seoul's intention not to get embroiled in Tokyo's attempts to drag the issue into the international spotlight by turning it into a matter of dispute.