March 27, 2019 10:29
The Japanese Education Ministry on Tuesday approved 10 elementary social studies textbooks that assert the island country's flimsy colonial-era claim to Korea's Dokdo Islets.
"Dokdo is inherent Japanese territory, which is illegally occupied by Korea," one claims in blunt contradiction of the facts.
In reality Dokdo was Korean until the country was annexed by Japan in 1910 but is so small and remote that it was "forgotten" by the Americans after liberation and Korea had to take control of it under its own steam shortly after World War II.
Japan only fairly recently rediscovered its territorial ambitions because the islets are surrounded by rich fishing grounds and potential undersea resources. But the conservative administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in 2017 told textbook publishers to describe Dokdo and other territories it has disputes over as "Japan's inherent territories."
Ten of the 12 social studies textbooks for third through sixth graders assert the claim to Dokdo, six of them using the phrase "inherent territory," up from two.
Korea protested immediately. Vice Foreign Minister Lee Tae-ho called in Japanese Ambassador to Korea Yasumasa Nagamine to lodge a protest.
In a statement, the Foreign Ministry said, "We strongly denounce the Japanese government for approving textbooks that carry an illegal claim to Dokdo, which is indigenous Korean territory historically, geographically and under international law."
Meanwhile, friction intensified between the two countries after the Daejeon District Court ordered the seizure of some Korean assets held by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries after the corporation refused to comply with a court order to compensate Korean victims of wartime forced labor.
On Monday, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said, "It's very serious that plaintiffs were allowed to seize a Japanese firm's assets, while the Korean government hasn't taken any concrete measures to rectify violations of an accord" that was signed in 1965.
Tokyo maintains that all reparations for Japan's colonial rule were settled by a lump sum under the 1965 treaty that normalized relations with Korea. But the Supreme Court here ruled that a treaty between governments cannot override individual victims' claims for compensation.
Tokyo is now mulling economic retaliation of some kind.
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