Once again, the Japanese government described Dokdo as its “sovereign territory” in its annual defense white paper. While denouncing China’s military action, Japan attempted to explain security initiatives being pursued by the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, such as exercising the right to collective self-defense and strengthening its alliance with the US.
On July 21, Abe presided over a meeting of the Japanese cabinet, which adopted the defense white paper. The paper states that “The territorial issue over our sovereign territory of the Northern Territories and Takeshima still remains unresolved.” The Northern Territories refer to the southern four Kuril Islands, which are contested by Russia and Japan, while Takeshima is the Japanese name for Dokdo.
This is the 11th year in a row - since 2005, during the administration of Junichiro Koizumi (2001-2006) - that Japan has repeated its territorial claim to Dokdo.
In a critical statement released by the spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the South Korean government said that the white paper “denies the history of the Japanese imperial occupation of the Korean Peninsula” and “nullifies our efforts to usher in a new age in our bilateral relationship.”
Lee Sang-deok, director general of Northeast Asian affairs at the Ministry, summoned Kenji Kanasugi, minister and deputy chief of mission at the Japanese Embassy, and asked for the language in question to be deleted and not to be added again.
South Korea’s Defense Ministry also summoned Japan‘s defense attach? to deliver a statement of protest.
This year’s defense white paper was focused on emphasizing the threat of Japan‘s military activities in the East and South China Seas.
Japan criticized China in a section titled “Maritime Trends.” “Many examples have been observed of China unilaterally claiming rights that are incompatible with the rule of international law and acting according to those rights,” the white paper said.
Last year, Japan only said that the action that China was taking in regard to the territorial dispute in the East and South China Seas “could be described as highhanded.” This year, however, it added the phrase that China “appeared to be trying to implement arbitrary claims without compromising.”
Japan’s emphasis on the increasing danger in Japan’s security environment caused by the threat of China seems to be intended to aggressively promote the legitimacy of strengthening its alliance with the US and exercising the right of collective self-defense.
“The white paper was written with the purpose of providing accurate facts about the rapid expansion of the activity of the Chinese military near Japan to domestic and international audiences and of explaining the Defense Ministry’s analysis and assessment of this situation. We will continue to take great interest in monitoring this,” Japanese Foreign Minister Gen Nakatani told reporters on Tuesday after the white paper was adopted during the cabinet meeting.
The white paper also addressed the issues of North Korea’s nuclear weapon and missile programs. Referring to Pyongyang’s claim that it successfully tested a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) this past May, the paper said, “This is becoming a more realistic and urgent problem. We are greatly concerned about it.”
By Gil Yun-hyung, Tokyo correspondent and Park Byong-su, senior staff writer
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