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Japan to Take Dokdo to Court: Will Japan Collapse under Denial?
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Japan's Noda Yoshihiko Cabinet decided to take the Dokdo issue to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in a cabinet meeting yesterday. They decided to submit a note verbale officially proposing to take the Dokdo issue to the ICJ following Prime Minister Noda's letter of protest to President Lee Myung-bak last week.

This is the first time since the 1965 treaty between Korea and Japan that the Japanese government has proposed to take the Dokdo issue to the ICJ. Our government has maintained their position that they do not wish to see territorial disputes surrounding Dokdo and disputes on the history of both countries to spread emotionally because of President Lee Myung-bak's abrupt visit to Dokdo on August 10 and his request for an apology from the Emperor of Japan.

However, if we look at the series of responses that the Japanese government has recently disclosed directly and indirectly, one gets the feeling that they are collapsing under the weight of their own denial.

On August 21, officials from the Japanese Embassy in Korea including Ohtsuki Kotaro (second from right), Counselor for Political Affairs, are entering the office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade to deliver a note verbale from the Japanese government proposing that both countries jointly take the Dokdo issue to the International Court of Justice. Yonhap News

No matter how hard the Japanese government tries to identify Dokdo as disputed territory, Dokdo cannot be the subject of territorial disputes. The ICJ cannot force jurisdiction over Korea, so even if Japan takes the issue to the ICJ, it will be a silent scream unless Korea consents. The Korean government immediately announced that "It is not worth consideration."

Even if Japan shouts that Dokdo is disputed territory by taking the case to the ICJ, it will be likely fall on deaf ears. No country, including the U.S., wants to see the East Sea become disputed territory.

The diplomatic gestures by the Noda Cabinet apparently are intended to overcome their political crisis by leaning on the public sentiment. Two members of the Noda Cabinet have already visited the Yasukuni shrine, where Class-A war criminals are enshrined, on the anniversary of the end of the Second World War for the first time since the Democratic Party took office in 2009.

And Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs has posted a summary of the letter sent to Cheongwadae in the name of the Prime Minister on their webpage last week. They have crossed a line that they had maintained in managing conflicts with surrounding nations, and have neglected diplomatic conventions between states.

The Noda Cabinet was pressured to dissolve the House of Representatives seeing their approval ratings tumble due to the issue of increasing consumption taxes. In addition, conservative rightists led by the Liberal Democratic Party had requested for a firm foreign policy concerning Dokdo, the Senkaku Islands (Chinese name: Diaoyu Islands) and the Kuril Islands criticizing a "diplomacy of humiliation."

However, no matter how pressing domestic situations may be, sacrificing Korea-Japan relations will only bring destructive consequences. We hope that the Noda Cabinet's decision to put off finalizing other response measures such as reducing the size of the Korea-Japan currency swap and rescinding their plans to purchase Korean bonds is a sign of some sense of balance.

Historical issues between Korea and Japan still remain because they were not clearly resolved by the 1951 Treaty of San Francisco and the 1965 Treaty of Basic Relations between Japan and the Republic of Korea. However, to put it more precisely, it remains because of the ordeals in modern history--Japan invaded and brought suffering to its neighboring countries.

If Japan tries to stir up the public sentiment of its neighboring countries each time they see an opportunity, let alone try to solve the problems it has created, Japan will always remain a country to guard against in East Asia.

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