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Politics & Security

EDITORIAL | Japanese Government Must Show Enough Resolve to Recover Takeshima  

The annual Takeshima Day remains a prefectural event. In fact, no cabinet ministers have ever attended the annual ceremony in Matsue. 

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Takeshima
Takeshima Day Police officers stand guard in front of a poster showing the Takeshima Islands. It is near the ceremony venue in Matsue City on the morning of February 22. (© Sankei by Yuta Yasumoto)

On February 22, Japan marked the 18th "Takeshima Day." Coming in the midst of North Korean missile firings into the Sea of Japan, and just before the one-year anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the event reminded the nation of its sovereignty over the Takeshima Islands. 

The annual ceremony is observed under an ordinance of the Shimane Prefecture government. And the islands are located in the prefecture's Okinoshima town. Historically and in the eyes of international law, the pair of islands are beyond a doubt the inherent territory of the Japanese. 

Cooperation among Japan, the United States, and South Korea is increasingly important in coping with threats from Pyongyang. However, the illegal occupation of Takeshima by South Korea is a clear infringement on Japan's sovereignty. For its part, the Japanese government should mete out a more resolute response to this problem.

Beginning to Make a Fuss Abruptly

In 1905, the 38th year of the Meiji era, the government incorporated Takeshima into Shimane Prefecture by Cabinet decision. At that time, there was no protest at all from any country. 

It was not until January 1952 that South Korea began broaching sovereignty claims to the rocky outposts. Instead of Takeshima, they called the islands Dokdo in Korean. That was just before the San Francisco Peace Treaty restored Japan's sovereignty. The treaty took effect in April the same year.

Takenshima
A South Korean civic group protests the holding of the "Takeshima Day" in Seoul on February 22. (© Sankei by Tatsuya Tokiyoshi)

South Korea's government unilaterally established the so-called "Syngman Rhee Line." That is an illegal delineation of South Korean territory in the high seas, encompassing Takeshima. Then, like a thief at a fire, the South Korean authorities seized Japanese fishing boats and attacked Japanese patrol vessels. These were nothing short of state crimes by South Korea.

Weight of the G7 Chair

Nevertheless, the annual Takeshima Day remains a prefectural government-designated event rather than a national one. Only parliamentary vice ministers represent the national government at the annual ceremony in Matsue. In fact, no cabinet ministers have ever attended. 

This situation demonstrates the inadequate resolve of the national government for recovering and holding firmly onto the illegally occupied territory.

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In 2023, in particular, Japan holds the presidency of the G7 and will host the Hiroshima Summit in May. Moreover, there are relentless threats to the world at this time. Looming large among them are Russia's invasion of Ukraine, China's spy balloons, and North Korea's nuclear and missile developments. It is imperative that Japan demonstrates to the international community its clear and determined will to protect its own territory. 

Seoul Seeking Better Ties

South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol took office in May 2022. Since then, he has been signaling that his administration attaches high importance to improving diplomatic relations between Tokyo and Seoul. Consultations are underway in South Korea, for example, to resolve the issue of the so-called "wartime labor" involving Korean workers in Japan during World War II.

Takeshima
Cabinet Office Parliamentary Vice-Minister Hideyuki Nakano delivers a speech at a commemorative ceremony for Takeshima Day on February 22, in Matsue. (© Sankei by Yuta Yasumoto).

It is worthy of note that the South Korean Ministry of Defense described Japan as a "close neighbor" in its 2022 defense white paper. For the first time in six years, it also reinstated the expression that Japan has shared values with South Korea. South Korean news agency Yonhap reported that the white paper "has upgraded the notation of Japan, reflecting wishes to see improved bilateral ties."

Territorial Clash Continues

However, the white paper continues to wrongly state that Takeshima is "clearly a part of the inherent territory of South Korea." It also states that Seoul is determined to "firmly and severely deal with any territorial disputes" between Japan and South Korea. Nevertheless, the illegal occupation of Takeshima is totally unacceptable.

A country that fails to protect its territory will not be able to protect the lives and property of its people. The administration of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida should bear in mind that it needs to work out a detailed strategy for recovering Japan's own territory.

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(Read the editorial in Japanese.)

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun

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