February 06, 2013 12:00
The Japanese government has set up a new office that specifically deals with Tokyo's colonial claim to Korea's Dokdo and the dispute with China over the Senkaku or Diaoyu Islands.
So far Tokyo only had a separate agency that handled its claim to the Kuril Islands, which were occupied by Russia after Japan's defeat in World War II.
Ichita Yamamoto, the state minister for Okinawa and affairs related to Japanese territories, told reporters on Tuesday that the office was set up in order to "strongly claim" the territories.
The office will initially have 15 staff assembled by former prime minister Yoshihiko Noda to pursue Tokyo's Dokdo claim.
The office will include government officials already based at the agency handling the Kuril Islands issue and be at the direct command of the prime minister.
Yamamoto claimed Japan has "no choice" but to expand the channels to push its demands. He added a panel of experts may also be appointed to advise on territorial issues.
The Japanese government set up the agency handling the Kuril Islands issue in 1972. Tokyo has designated Feb. 7 "Northern Territories Day" and observes the day with nationwide events to remind citizens of the issue.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had pledged during his election campaign to make Takeshima Day, after the Japanese name for Dokdo, a nationwide event. Until now, it was observed only by Shimane Prefecture, which had administrative authority over the islets during the colonial occupation.
Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman Cho Tae-yong denounced the Japanese move as "a very regrettable act that shows Japan remains unrepentant about its history of invasion." He added Seoul "strongly protests against the Japanese government's retrogressive measure and demands Japan immediately withdraw it."
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