MATSUE, SHIMANE PREF. – As the Shimane Prefectural Government held its 10th annual Takeshima Day ceremony Sunday, an Abe government representative promised to find a peaceful resolution to a territorial dispute over the South Korea-controlled and Japan-claimed islets.
Police tightly guarded the compound where the ceremony was being held. About 500 people attended the event as Japanese right-wingers and South Korean activists staged separate demonstrations outside.
Also Sunday, about 50 South Korean protesters held a rally in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul. The protesters called on Tokyo to extend apologies and compensation to former “comfort women” who were forced to work at wartime Japanese military brothels.
In a separate incident, Seoul police arrested a middle-aged man after he threw a container of unidentified liquid into the embassy compound.
Sunday’s ceremony in the city of Matsue has been held by the prefectural government since 2006. It designated Feb. 22 as Takeshima Day in 2005, 100 years after the islets, called Dokdo in South Korea, were declared Japanese territory and the prefecture incorporated them based on a Cabinet decision.
Addressing the Matsue event, Yohei Matsumoto, a Cabinet Office parliamentary secretary, said Takeshima is “an inherent part of Japan’s territory under international law. We will make all-out efforts for a peaceful solution to the problem.”
The prefectural government had requested the Abe administration send a Cabinet member. But in an apparent effort to minimize diplomatic fallout, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe dispatched Matsumoto, whose rank is lower than that of a Cabinet minister.
South Korea has protested against the annual ceremony, reiterating the islets are an integral part of its territory. The Abe government has dispatched a Cabinet Office parliamentary secretary to the ceremony since 2013 to signal its position that the islets belong to Japan.
South Korea began officially laying claim to the islets in 1952. Two years later, Seoul dispatched coast guard units to the islets, and its effective control over them has been maintained ever since.
In 1965, South Korea and Japan concluded a basic treaty that normalized postwar diplomatic relations. But the territorial dispute has remained a thorn between the two sides.