On February 22, Matsue City in Shimane Prefecture held its Takeshima Day ceremony. The aim was to bring about the return of the island of Takeshima, a part of Shimane but currently illegally occupied by South Korea.
Takeshima is the sovereign territory of Japan, and the government has a responsibility to take the lead in actions to secure its return. And yet, Takeshima Day remains a commemoration designated only by the prefecture, not by the entire country. Out of deference to South Korea, official attendance was limited to a dispatched parliamentary secretary from the Cabinet Office. No government ministers attended the ceremony.
This is unacceptable.
The opening address of the prefecture’s governor, Zenbei Mizoguchi, was read by a proxy as he was unable to attend due to illness. In it, the governor criticized South Korea, saying, “There have been increasing moves to make the occupation a fait accompli, by carrying out military exercises and marine surveys in the area around Takeshima.”
However, it is futile to expect an intimidated government to demand the return of the island. If the government is to call for the return of Takeshima, then it should express its position in an unmistakable manner, raising Takeshima Day to a national commemoration, hosted by the national government.
In contrast, the government in Tokyo has designated February 7 as Northern Territories Day—a national rally to demand the return of the Northern Territories. It was attended by the Prime Minister and Cabinet members.
What is the reason for this level of difference towards Takeshima?
The background of Takeshima
Historically, Takeshima has been part of Japan, consistently recognized by the national government. There are numerous maps and documents which evidence this. Takeshima was incorporated into Shimane Prefecture in 1905, but it was seized by South Korea after the war.
In January 1952, South Korea unilaterally established the Syngman Rhee Line, claiming sovereignty over coastal waters, including Takeshima, and carrying out such actions as seizing Japanese fishing boats.
In June 2016, Shimane Prefecture and the Japan Coast Guard landed on the island, installing signs documenting it as Japanese territory and turning back South Korean fishermen. However, the following month, South Korean police landed on Takeshima and fired on a Japan Coast Guard patrol ship. In August 2017, a Japanese patrol ship was showered with more than 200 rounds of weapon fire.
Keeping the public informed
In the October 2017 public opinion survey by the Cabinet Office, 59.3% of respondents expressed interest in the Takeshima issue. That result was 7.6 percentage points lower than the previous survey, conducted in November 2014. This illustrates the insufficiency of the government’s efforts.
It is essential that the grounds for Japan’s claim of sovereignty over Takeshima, and developments in the issue such South Korea’s unjust behavior, be shared widely with the Japanese people. Increasing the pressure through calls for Takeshima’s return is paramount.
Takeshima has finally been clearly noted as “sovereign Japanese territory,” following the revision of the proposed teaching guidance for Japanese high schools in 2017. Children should be taught about Takeshima in a way that is easy to understand. Of course, the prerequisite is that teachers and adults understand the issue, correctly.
(Click here to read the original article in Japanese.)