• Kyodo


A representative of the central government joined local officials in Matsue, Shimane Prefecture, for a ceremony on Thursday to highlight the Japan’s claim to sovereignty over a group of islets administered by South Korea.

The row over the islets in the Sea of Japan, called Takeshima in Japanese and Dokdo in Korean, was highlighted recently at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, when Japan protested the hoisting of a flag showing the islets as part of a unified Korean Peninsula at an exhibition match by the unified Korean women’s ice hockey team.

Amid signs of a rapprochement between the two Koreas, a North Korean art troupe touring South Korea to celebrate the Olympics also included a song with lyrics asserting that the islets are “also part of our fatherland,” in one of its performances.

Yuhei Yamashita, a Cabinet Office parliamentary secretary, represented the central government at the 13th annual Takeshima Day ceremony along with Shimane Deputy Gov. Takayuki Fujihara.

In Seoul, a number of residents protested in front of the Japanese Embassy, saying that the islets belong to South Korea.

The row over the islets dates back to the early 1950s. South Korea dispatched a permanent battalion there in 1954.

The rugged islets, covering a total land area of 0.21 square kilometers, consist of volcanic rock with little vegetation or drinking water but they are located in a rich fishing area.

Feb. 22 marks the day in 1905 on which Shimane Prefecture declared it had incorporated the islets with the approval of the Japanese government.

The prefecture designated the day as Takeshima Day in 2005, and has held ceremonies in Matsue annually since 2006. The central government has sent a representative of Yamashita’s rank each year since 2013.

The education ministry unveiled new teaching guidelines for senior high schools earlier this month, which emphasize that Takeshima is an “inherent territory” of Japan along with the uninhabited Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, controlled by Tokyo but claimed by Beijing.

South Korea immediately protested the move.

A similar decision on elementary and junior high school teaching guidelines was made last year.

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