MATSUE, SHIMANE PREF. – The central government sent a representative Monday to the “Takeshima Day” ceremony, which highlights Japan’s sovereignty claims over a pair of outcroppings in the Sea of Japan controlled by South Korea.
Yasuyuki Sakai, a Cabinet Office parliamentary secretary, took part in the ceremony in Matsue. The event, the 11th of its kind, is held annually by the Shimane Prefectural Government to signal its position that Takeshima is Japanese territory.
South Korea, which calls the islets Dokdo, has had administrative control of them since 1954.
“Territorial sovereignty is the basis of a country. We seek to continue to send out a message to people in and out of Japan” about Takeshima, Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga Yoshihide told a news conference in Tokyo.
It is the fourth consecutive time that the central government has dispatched a Cabinet Office parliamentary secretary to the event.
The government has not dispatched a higher-ranking representative, such as a Cabinet minister, to avoid irritating Seoul.
A landmark deal was struck between Tokyo and Seoul last December on the issue of Korean “comfort women” who were forced to work in wartime brothels for the Japanese military, which has been one of the most contentious sticking points in the bilateral relationship.
Shimane Gov. Zembee Mizoguchi referred to the improving relations in his remarks at the ceremony, and said that he “continues to strongly hope that the Takeshima issue is discussed at diplomatic levels.”
The ceremony has been held by Shimane since 2006 after the prefecture designated Feb. 22 as Takeshima Day in 2005, a century after the islets were declared Japanese territory and the prefecture incorporated them based on a Cabinet decision.
The rugged islets with a mass of 0.21 sq. km are made of volcanic rock with little vegetation or drinking water.