• Kyodo

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The government is sending a high-ranking official to the ceremony this Sunday commemorating the day of Japan’s incorporation of the Takeshima islets, despite the organizer’s request for a Cabinet member.

Eriko Yamatani, state minister in charge of territorial affairs, said Tuesday that Yohei Matsumoto, a Cabinet Office parliamentary secretary, will represent the government at the Takeshima Day ceremony in Matsue, Shimane Prefecture.

Matsumoto rates as a senior official of the Cabinet Office, but the position is much lower than that of Cabinet member.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe apparently chose to send Matsumoto to minimize the expected diplomatic fallout from South Korea while at the same time trying to ease the frustration of the Shimane Prefectural Government, which hosts the event.

It will be the third year in a row that an official from the Cabinet Office has attended the prefecture’s event to commemorate the 1905 incorporation of the rocky outcroppings, called Dokdo in South Korea, into Shimane.

“Takeshima is part of our country’s territory both under international law and historically,” Yamatani told a news conference, saying the government has a responsibility to signal its position by dispatching a representative.

While South Korea is expected to react negatively to the move, Yamatani said Japan-South Korea relations remain “very important.”

The annual ceremony has been held by Shimane since 2006 after the prefecture in 2005 designated Feb. 22 as Takeshima Day, 100 years after it incorporated the Sea of Japan islets based on a Cabinet decision.

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