Takeshima ceremony to draw 18 lawmakers

by Reiji Yoshida

Staff Writer

Shimane Prefecture’s annual ceremony Friday to commemorate Japan’s 1905 annexation of Takeshima will draw at least 18 Diet members, but so far no one in the Cabinet has signaled plans to participate in the event, the prefecture said Monday.

The two Takeshima islets, which South Korea took control of after World War II, lie about midway between Japan and the South in the Sea of Japan and are a constant source of territorial friction.

The central government reportedly plans to send Aiko Shimajiri, parliamentary secretary at the Cabinet Office, to the contentious ceremony that has drawn strong protests from South Korea, which calls the islets Dokdo.

But the central government has yet to confirm Shimajiri will attend, a Shimane prefectural official told The Japan Times on Monday.

The 18 Diet members include Shimane constituency-elected Hiroyuki Hosono, deputy secretary general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, and Shinjiro Koizumi, a son of former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.

Since its inauguration in December, the Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has sought to avoid causing unnecessary friction with South Korea over Takeshima, or with China over the Japan-controlled Senkaku Islands, which China also claims.

But to maintain face, Abe apparently decided to dispatch the younger Koizumi, a popular politician who heads the LDP’s youth division, to the ceremony. Koizumi has a high profile but his position involves little substantial power.

Shimane has sent invitations to six Cabinet members, including Abe, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga. None has indicated plans to attend Friday’s event, the official said.

During the election campaign last year, the LDP pledged to have the central government host the event, but Suga told a news conference Monday that the LDP-led government will not carry out the promise, at least not this year.

“We have just launched the administration, so I think this time it’s rather difficult,” he said.

Shimane said the event, to be held in the city of Matsue, will be jointly hosted by the prefectural government, the prefectural assembly and an association of local residents calling for the return of the Takeshima islets.

About 500 people, including 425 invited guests, will attend the ceremony. The first Takeshima Day was held in 2005, on the 100th anniversary of the islets’ annexation by Japan.