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2013年2月24日 (日)

竹島の日 政務官の式典出席は妥当だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Feb. 24, 2013)
Govt right to send appropriate official to Takeshima Day event
竹島の日 政務官の式典出席は妥当だ(2月23日付・読売社説)

The government made a well-balanced decision on Takeshima Day by expressing a firm stance on the territorial issue while at the same time displaying diplomatic consideration toward South Korea.

The administration sent Aiko Shimajiri, a parliamentary secretary of the Cabinet Office, to a commemoration ceremony held Friday in Shimane Prefecture.

Though this was the eighth ceremony of its kind, Shimajiri was the first government representative to participate. Additionally, a record number of 19 Diet members attended the event.

Shimane Prefecture in 2005 established an ordinance designating Feb. 22 as Takeshima Day to commemorate the 1905 cabinet decision to incorporate the islands into the prefecture. Since 2006, the Shimane prefectural government has organized the annual ceremony to cement the nation's sovereignty over the Sea of Japan islands as soon as possible by raising public awareness of the issue. Takeshima is currently under South Korea's effective control.


Diplomatic courtesies extended

It is the job of the government to expand public interest in and understanding of territorial issues because such matters pertain to national sovereignty. The central government should organize a Takeshima Day event.

Last summer, South Korean President Lee Myung Bak broke diplomatic norms by visiting Takeshima and demanding the Emperor's apology for Japan's behavior during colonial times. In response, the Liberal Democratic Party pledged to organize a government-sponsored Takeshima Day ceremony in its policy platform for the last House of Representatives election.

However, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government decided not to take the lead on the ceremony this year. It also postponed its plan to unilaterally refer the territorial dispute with Seoul to the International Court of Justice. The Abe administration has refrained from such actions to build a future-oriented bilateral relationship with South Korea in cooperation with President-elect Park Geun Hye.

In January, former Finance Minister Fukushiro Nukaga visited South Korea as the prime minister's special envoy. Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso will also attend Park's presidential inauguration ceremony on Monday.

Shimane Prefecture requested Abe and his Cabinet ministers attend its Takeshima Day ceremony, but the government sent only the parliamentary secretary as its representative. This was yet another example of the administration's consideration for South Korea.

Nonetheless, a spokesperson of South Korea's Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministry said the parliamentary secretary's attendance at the event was regrettable, and Seoul strongly protested the act.

We resolutely disagree.


Bilateral cooperation crucial

First of all, Shimane Prefecture's ceremony was a domestic event. Even if Japan and South Korea confront each other over the territorial dispute, reprimanding the other country for sending its representative to a local government's event is uncalled for, as such behavior can be considered meddling in domestic affairs.

Furthermore, the partnership between Japan and South Korea is now more vital than ever to ensure peace and stability in East Asia. This is particularly true in light of North Korea's recent nuclear test and launch of a long-range missile, and China's continued heavy-handed demonstrations in the East China Sea.

There are also several pending economic matters that could benefit both Japan and South Korea, such as a potential free trade agreement, if they can cooperate with one other.

The change in the South Korean presidency provides a good opportunity to mend the deteriorated Japan-South Korea relations. The Takeshima dispute may remain unsettled for quite some time. To explore ways to prevent the issue from stifling bilateral ties, Tokyo and Seoul must work together by maintaining careful communications.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 23, 2013)
(2013年2月23日01時27分  読売新聞)


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