Korea Needs to Remain Calm Over Dokdo

      August 13, 2012 12:59

      Japan may take its dubious territorial claim to Korea's Dokdo islets to the International Court of Justice, Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Genba told reporters on Saturday, a day after President Lee Myung-bak visited the islets. Dokdo has been under Korean control since the end of Japanese colonial rule after World War II.

      "We have refrained from taking the issue to the ICJ until now because we fear that it can do harm to bilateral relations," Genba said. "But now that it seems unnecessary to mind that [with Lee's visit], we want to take the issue to the ICJ." The Japanese government may also postpone bilateral finance ministerial talks scheduled in Seoul on Aug. 25 and 26, and cancel a visit to Seoul by Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda at the end of this year. The leaders of Korea and Japan have been holding summits annually alternating between Seoul and Tokyo.

      Japanese media reported that Tokyo plans to establish a separate government agency tasked with handling its territorial claims, including the Senkaku or Diaoyu Islands which are under dispute with China, and the Kuril Islands controlled by Russia.

      Meanwhile, a Japanese man in his 40s threw a 20 cm brick at the Korean Consulate General in Hiroshima at 3 a.m. on Saturday while driving by on a motorcycle, breaking a window. He told police that he was a member of a rightwing group in Japan. Rightwing groups also held protests in eight cities in Japan, including Tokyo and Osaka, claiming sovereignty over Dokdo. Some rightwing group members also harassed peaceful demonstrators in Tokyo, composed of Japanese, Korean and Taiwanese citizens who are opposed to Japanese politicians paying homage at the militarist Yasukuni Shrine, which houses the remains of convicted war criminals among Japan's war dead.

      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. Japan knows this better than anyone else, but it is still trying to use that option to turn the Dokdo into an international dispute and gain a more advantageous position.

      But since the Dokdo islets are administered by Korea, there is no need to escalate diplomatic friction. The government must stay calm and make sure it does not fall into Japan's trap of turning the issue into a matter of international dispute by taking it to the ICJ, and at the same time it must come up with careful plans to increase global awareness of Korea's ownership of the islets. A calm but firm response is needed, no matter how much noise some Japanese groups are making to get a rise out of Korea.

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