The Virginia Senate last Thursday approved a bill that mandates using both the Korean and Japanese name for the body of water separating the two Asian countries.
The bill stipulates that all textbooks approved by the Virginia Board of Education should use the name "East Sea" along with the "Sea of Japan."
The current U.S.'s official policy is to use just one name for any geographic feature on maps, in this case "Sea of Japan."
The Virginia Senate passed the bill by a vote of 31 in favor, four against and three abstentions.
The state legislature wanted to call attention to the controversy about the designation rather than trying to judge which designation is correct. Teachers will tell their students why the Japanese call the body of water by one name and the Koreans by another. The decision was hailed by State Sen. Dave Marsden, a sponsor of the bill.
There is concern that the bill could run into difficulty in the state lower house, the final gateway to enactment. Unlike the Senate, the Virginia House of Delegates is controlled by Republicans and the Japanese Embassy is engaged in all-out lobbying.
Kenichiro Sasae, Japan's ambassador to the U.S., last Wednesday asked the governor of Virginia and the state house speaker to veto the bill, the Washington Post reported.