WASHINGTON – Washington has urged Tokyo and Seoul to settle their sovereignty dispute over a pair of South Korea-controlled, Japan-claimed islets, an issue that has damaged ties between the two U.S. allies.
The call came in the form of a White House response to two online petitions on the rocky islets, called Takeshima by Japan and Dokdo by South Korea, and located roughly halfway between the two countries.
“This is a long-standing dispute that (South) Korea and Japan have handled with restraint in the past. We expect that they will continue to do so. We would welcome any outcome agreed to by both (South) Korea and Japan,” the White House said Friday on its website.
While Tokyo has proposed that the issue be referred to the International Court of Justice for adjudication, Seoul has rejected the offer, denying any territorial dispute exists over the islets. Deliberations at the U.N. tribunal cannot start unless both parties agree.
On the White House website, some 42,000 people signed a petition urging the U.S. government to ask South Korea to allow the ICJ to take up the case. In the other petition, backed by around 31,000 people, Washington was asked not to do so.
In its response, the White House reiterated that it does not take a position regarding the dispute.
Meanwhile, the White House stopped short of directly answering petitions that called for either removal or preservation of a statue of a girl in California symbolizing the women who were forced to work in Japanese military brothels during World War II, and who are euphemistically known as “comfort women” in Japan. It is not the federal government but local governments that have jurisdiction over the issue, the White House said.
Korean-Americans and Korean nationals residing in the United States led the project of erecting the statue last year to raise public awareness of the victims of sexual slavery, including on the Korean Peninsula during Japan’s brutal 1910-1945 colonial rule.