South Korea Protests Japan's Renewed Claims to Disputed Dokdo Islets

South Korea strongly protests Japan's renewed claims to the Dokdo/Takeshima islands, a long-standing territorial dispute that continues to strain relations between the two U.S. allies in East Asia.

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Mahnoor Jehangir
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South Korea Protests Japan's Renewed Claims to Disputed Dokdo Islets

South Korea Protests Japan's Renewed Claims to Disputed Dokdo Islets

The South Korean government has strongly protested against Japan's renewed territorial claims to the Dokdo islets, a group of small islands located in the Sea of Japan that are controlled by South Korea but also claimed by Japan. The South Korean foreign ministry summoned a Japanese diplomat on April 16, 2024, to lodge a formal protest over Japan's assertion of sovereignty over the islands in its annual Diplomatic Bluebook report.

In the report, Japan reiterated its long-standing position that the Dokdo islets, known as Takeshima in Japan, are an inherent part of Japanese territory historically and under international law. The report also accused South Korea of carrying out an "illegal occupation" of the area. South Korea vehemently denies these claims, maintaining that the islands are historically, geographically, and legally an integral part of Korean territory.

The South Korean foreign ministry called Japan's claims "futile" and demanded their immediate withdrawal, emphasizing that they have no impact on South Korea's sovereignty over the Dokdo islets. "Dokdo is clearly an integral part of Korea's territory, historically, geographically and under international law. The Korean government will sternly respond to any provocation and take all necessary measures to resolutely defend its territorial sovereignty," the ministry said in a statement.

Why this matters: The territorial dispute over the Dokdo/Takeshima islands has been a major source of diplomatic tensions between South Korea and Japan for decades, with both sides claiming historical and legal rights to the islands. The issue remains unresolved and continues to strain the relationship between the two key U.S. allies in East Asia.

The Dokdo/Takeshima dispute is part of a complex history of Japan's colonial rule over the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945. Many Koreans view Japan's claims to the islands as a denial of its colonial past and an infringement on Korean sovereignty. South Korea has been in effective control of the Dokdo islets since the 1950s, after the end of World War II and its liberation from Japanese colonial rule.

Despite the strong protest from South Korea, Japan's latest Diplomatic Bluebook also referred to South Korea as an "important neighboring country" and "partner," indicating a potential improvement in bilateral relations. The two countries have been seeking to mend ties in recent years, although the territorial dispute and other historical issues, such as compensation for wartime forced labor, continue to be major sticking points.

The South Korean government has vowed to take all necessary measures to defend its sovereignty over the Dokdo islets. "The government will respond sternly to any attempt to undermine our sovereignty over Dokdo, which is an integral part of our territory historically, geographically and under international law," the foreign ministry stated. South Korea maintains a small police detachment and conducts regular military drills on and around the islands to assert its control.

Key Takeaways

  • South Korea protests Japan's renewed claims to Dokdo/Takeshima islands
  • Japan asserts islands are part of its territory, accuses S. Korea of "illegal occupation"
  • S. Korea denies claims, says islands are integral part of Korean territory
  • Dispute is a major source of diplomatic tensions between S. Korea and Japan
  • S. Korea vows to defend its sovereignty over the islands through necessary measures