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South Korea video renaming Sea of Japan fuels tension

Kyodo

Japan has lodged a protest with South Korea over an online video promoting the use of the name “East Sea” to describe the Sea of Japan, the Japanese government’s top spokesman said Wednesday.

The video, uploaded in English and Korean to the South Korean Foreign Ministry’s YouTube account, claims, “Japan knows the truth” about historical use of the name East Sea. The video calls for the use of both names alongside each other on international maps.

The Japanese government lodged a protest through diplomatic channels, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a news conference.

“The Sea of Japan is established internationally as the only name (for the sea). Japan cannot accept the contents of the video,” Suga said.

The dispute is one of several sticking points in bilateral relations. Japan claims a pair of South Korean-controlled islets in the Sea of Japan, calling them Takeshima, while South Korea refers to them as Dokdo.

Japan’s ambassador to South Korea remains in Japan, having been recalled last month in response to the installation of a statue in front of the Japanese Consulate in Busan commemorating women forced into Japanese military brothels before and during World War II.

Meanwhile, Shimane Prefecture held an annual “Takeshima Day” ceremony on Wednesday to emphasize Japan’s claims to the disputed islets, with a senior central government representative in attendance.

Shunsuke Mutai, parliamentary vice Cabinet Office minister, participated in the ceremony in Matsue, Shimane, making it the fifth consecutive time the central government has dispatched a parliamentary vice Cabinet Office minister since 2013.

The ceremony, the 12th of its kind, reaffirms claims to Takeshima as Japanese territory and part of the prefecture. South Korea has taken effective control of the islets in the Sea of Japan since 1954.

The education ministry this month issued officially sanctioned guidelines urging elementary and junior high schools to teach its students, for the first time, that the Takeshima islets are “inherent” parts of Japanese territory — a move that immediately sparked protest from South Korea.

Shimane 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. Similar ceremonies have been held on the day ever since.

The rugged islets measure 0.21 sq. kilometers and are made of volcanic rock with little vegetation.