SEOUL – The head of South Korea’s major opposition party has visited a pair of islets in the Sea of Japan that are claimed by Tokyo ahead Thursday’s anniversary of the liberation of the Korean Peninsula from Japanese colonial rule.
The visit Tuesday by Kim Han-gil, head of the Democratic Party, to the islets, known as Takeshima in Japan and Dokdo in South Korea, was an apparent move to display Seoul’s jurisdiction of the islands.
Accompanied by party members, Kim sang South Korea’s national anthem after landing on the islets, according to the party. Kim said the isles are South Korean territory that any South Korean citizen can visit them at any time.
Kim also accused Japan of tilting to the right recently and showing signs of resurrecting militarism. This cannot be condoned, Kim said, criticizing Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s move to change the interpretation of the Constitution to allow Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense.
The move means that Japan is spiritually declaring itself hostile to the feelings of its Asian neighbors, who suffered under its past invasions, Kim said.
Abe’s government had asked the party to cancel Kim’s visit through its embassy in Seoul. Tokyo has also called for a visit to the islands by members of the ruling Saenuri Party, slated for later Wednesday, to be canceled.
In Tokyo, Makita Shimokawa, deputy director general of the Foreign Ministry’s Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, summoned a minister from the South Korean Embassy to lodge a complaint over the visit by the Democratic Party members.
The incident is extremely regrettable and unacceptable in light of Japan’s sovereignty claim to the islets, Shimokawa told the minister.