SEOUL – South Korea’s Foreign Ministry on Monday summoned a senior Japanese diplomat to lodge a complaint over Tokyo’s dispatch of a government representative to an annual ceremony in Shimane Prefecture pressing Japan’s claim to a pair of South Korean-administered islets.
Kenji Kanasugi, a minister at the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, was summoned.
A South Korean statement Sunday called the ceremony “extremely deplorable” and a “provocation.”
Noting that it was the third consecutive year Tokyo had sent a high-level representative to the ceremony, the Foreign Ministry’s statement accused Japan of repeating “regressive behavior” by denying its history of colonialism on the Korean Peninsula.
The government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sent Yohei Matsumoto, a Cabinet Office parliamentary secretary, to the event in Matsue, where the prefectural government designated Feb. 22 as Takeshima Day in 2005.
The Shimane Prefectural Government had requested the central government send a Cabinet member. In an apparent effort to minimize diplomatic fallout, Abe dispatched Matsumoto, whose rank is lower than that of a Cabinet minister.
At the ceremony, Matsumoto declared that Takeshima, called Dokdo in South Korea, is “an inherent part of Japan’s territory under international law.”
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.
The islets are administered by Seoul.
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 since been maintained.
In 1965, South Korea and Japan concluded a basic treaty that normalized postwar diplomatic relations. But the territorial dispute has remained a divisive issue between the two sides.