MATSUE, SHIMANE PREF. – Japan on Saturday pressed its claim to a tiny pair of South Korea-held islets during an annual ceremony in Shimane Prefecture as bilateral tensions linger over wartime issues.
In a speech, Shimane Gov. Tatsuya Maruyama criticized South Korea, saying it is “strengthening efforts to make the occupation of Takeshima an established fact” and calling for a resolute response from the government on the territorial issue.
The islets, which lie northwest of Shimane in the Sea of Japan, are called Takeshima in Japan and Dokdo by the two Koreas.
The ceremony has been held every Feb. 22 since 2006 after the Shimane Prefectural Government designated the day as Takeshima Day the previous year, a century after bringing them under its jurisdiction following Cabinet approval.
Takashi Fujiwara, a Cabinet Office parliamentary vice minister who represented the central government at the event, said, “In light of historical facts and also international law, Takeshima is an inherent territory (of Japan).”
As part of efforts to demonstrate its position on the issue, Tokyo has sent a representative of Fujiwara’s rank each year since 2013.
The rocky outcroppings, with a total land area of 20 hectares (50 acres), consist of volcanic rock with little vegetation or drinking water but rich fishing grounds.
The South placed a police garrison on the islets, which are roughly halfway from either country, in 1954 and effectively controls them.
This year’s ceremony came as bilateral ties remain strained by wartime issues, particularly rulings in 2018 by South Korea’s top court ordering Japanese firms to compensate people it found were subject to forced labor during Japan’s 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.
Japan says the rulings violate the 1965 agreement that settled their wartime claims and therefore violate international law.