National / Politics

South Korea and Taiwan protest Japanese government's new exhibition on disputed isles

AFP-JIJI, Kyodo, Staff Report

Just hours after it opened, South Korea on Thursday demanded the “immediate closure” of a new Tokyo exhibition devoted to two sets of disputed islands.

The exhibition, run by the Japanese government, displays documents and photographs promoting Japan’s claims over the islands.

The collection in the Municipal Research Building in Hibiya Park focuses in part on the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, which are administered by Japan but claimed by China as Diaoyu and Taiwan as Tiaoyutai. The other islets are a pair of rocks in the Sea of Japan that are controlled by South Korea. They are known as Dokdo in Korean and Takeshima in Japanese.

“We demand its immediate closure,” the South Korean Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “The Japanese government should stop immediately its hopeless attempt to claim Dokdo, which is historically, geographically and under international laws a part of our territory,” the ministry added.

South Korea built its own museum dedicated to the islets in Seoul in 1995 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of its independence, according to the Korean Tourism Organization’s website.

Taiwan meanwhile lodged a protest over its claim to the Senkakus.

“We want to stress again that the Tiaoyutai Islands are the territory of the Republic of China,” Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

It said the position of the Taiwan government on the issue has been consistent. It has insisted that the dispute be settled peacefully and that any unilateral action to heighten tensions should be avoided so peace and stability in the region can be jointly maintained.

The exhibition is also likely to anger China and comes after Japan recently detected a Chinese nuclear-powered submarine prowling in waters surrounding the Tokyo-administered isles, which are uninhabited. Tokyo has long complained about Beijing’s routine dispatch of coast guard ships to Japanese territorial waters surrounding the islands.

Relations with China deteriorated in 2012 when the central government bought three of the small, uninhabited islands from their private owners, effectively nationalizing the chain. Since then, the two top Asian economies have taken gradual steps to mend fences but relations remain tense.

Though Japan has long administered the Senkaku Islands, China and Taiwan only began claiming them in the 1970s after reports emerged that they might be sitting on lucrative energy deposits.