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EDITORIAL | Is Takeshima Recovery Not Among Government Priorities?

The government should not look away from the current situation in which Japan's sovereignty over Takeshima continues to be violated by South Korea.



Matsue City in Shimane Prefecture celebrated Takeshima Day in a ceremony at the civic center on February 22, 2024. (© Sankei by Shigeru Amari)

February 22 was Takeshima Day. The islands are indisputably Japanese sovereign territory and a part of Shimane Prefecture. However, this will mark the 70th year they have been unlawfully occupied by South Korea.

Takeshima, like the Northern Territories, is an island region of Japan that must be returned to Japanese administration. South Korea should apologize and vacate the islands. 

At the same time, the Japanese government must do its utmost through diplomacy and popular movements to achieve the return of Takeshima. Unfortunately, it has not been doing that. 

Takeshima, Shimane Prefecture, Japan

Officially, February 7 has long been designated as Northern Territories Day. And on that day the Prime Minister and Cabinet ministers with a connection to the issue attended a large rally in Tokyo to demand the return of the islands. Meanwhile, in 2005, Shimane Prefecture established Takeshima Day by ordinance during the same month. 

Nevertheless, the central government only sees it fit to send the parliamentary secretary of the Cabinet office to attend the annual commemorative gathering for Takeshima in Matsue City. Certainly, the efforts of those prefectural officials involved in the campaign are worthy of praise. But the stance of the government in Tokyo has been entirely too weak. 

Korean citizens' groups hold a "Takeshima Day" protest rally near the Japanese Embassy in Seoul on February 22. (©Kyodo)

Long History as Part of Japan

Takeshima was used as a stopover point for Japanese fishermen from the Edo period. When the Japanese government incorporated Takeshima into Shimane Prefecture on February 22, 1908, no other country protested. 

Nor did the San Francisco Peace Treaty require Japan to relinquish control of Takeshima. That document was signed in September 1951, formally ending World War II and setting the stage for the end of the Allied Occupation in April 1952. In other words, the international community recognized it as Japanese territory. 

Nevertheless, in January 1952, before the Occupation had ended, South Korea suddenly and unilaterally announced the so-called "Syngman Rhee Line." With it, they claimed marine sovereignty in a wide area around the Korean Peninsula, including Takeshima, as South Korean territory.  Opportunistically, the government of President Syngman Rhee encroached upon Japan's sovereignty just before we were scheduled to regain our independence. 

In June 1954 the South Korean Coast Guard landed forces on Takeshima. And for seven decades since then it has continued to illegally occupy the island. Furthermore, in August of that same year, approximately 200 rifle shots were fired at a Japan Coast Guard patrol boat in the area. 

Police officers stand guard near the venue on February 22. In Matsue City, Shimane Prefecture. (© Sankei by Shigeru Amari)

Government's Responsibility

In February 2013, then-Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stated that the government would consider the official establishment of  "Takeshima Day." That was in a written message approved by the Cabinet. 

Moreover, during the election for the House of Representatives in 2012, the Liberal Democratic Party publicly pledged to hold a government-sponsored ceremony related to Takeshima. Unfortunately, neither of these promises has borne fruit. 

If the government's vacillation is due to its desire to not rub South Korea wrongly while it is preoccupied with North Korea, that calculation is very mistaken. Even though the government of President Yoon Suk-yeol wants to improve relations with Japan, the South Korean military has conducted exercises near Takeshima. 

We must not look away from the current situation in which Japan's sovereignty continues to be violated. Rather, the government should make greater efforts to recover control of Takeshima. 


(Read the editorial in Japanese.)

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun

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