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Home > Media Reviews > News Review Last Updated: 14:54 03/09/2007
News Review #351: June 15, 2006

No Agreement in Japan-South Korea Maritime Talks

Reviewed by Hitoshi URABE

No Agreement in Japan-South Korea Maritime Talks
(Steve Herman) Voice of America


Talks were held in Tokyo as the first formal discussions in six years between Japan and Korea on the issue of EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone) in the Sea of Japan. There was only a slim chance, if at all, of the discussions to come out with a constructive accord, but many thought it would still worth it, at least to demonstrate the existence of willingness to discuss it.

One of the reasons for the pessimistic view on the discussion was the devastating defeat of President Roh Moo Hyun's liberal ruling Uri Party by the conservative major opposition Grand National Party in the provincial and local elections held end of May. In the attempt to regain popularity, Mr Roh was expected to adopt a harder-line stance against Japan in various facets of bilateral contacts. And territorial rights would perfectly fill the slot for the president to show his "determination against Japan for the sake of people of Korea."

Sure enough, at the discussions, Korea tabled a new scheme in setting the border of EEZs of the two countries. It used to be that while Japan uses Takeshima, Korea uses Utsuryo as base points in drawing provisional EEZ boundaries, and the negotiations would start there on the handling of overlapping regions. This time, however, Korea proposed that it would use Takeshima as a base point and Japan to use Oki. This proposal, if accepted, would shift the boundaries several hundred kilometers closer to Japan at the outset, which Japan obviously refused.

Currently, the basic framework of the EEZ discussions is structured on the basic understanding that the issue of territoriality over Takeshima would be put aside for the mean time. Such format was adopted with the hope that an agreement would be reached easier if the subject were to be limited to the ways of distributing economic benefits between the two countries rather than risking a stalemate over territorial assertions.

It seems, however, that the scheme to separate the EEZ issue is not functioning the way it was envisaged. And, if so, it might have reached the stage where it would better serve the interest of both countries, it the territoriality issue over Takeshima would be dealt squarely first.

Takeshima was apparently "noticed" by the people both living on the islands forming Japan and those on the peninsula long before such a modern notion as "territory" was developed. But during the course of the concepts of "state" and "territory" evolved, it was Japan which through various actions as a "state" recognized Takeshima being its own territory. And no other state, including the governments on the Korean peninsula, objected to Japan's actions.

At the end of WWII, Korea's independence was approved by the San Francisco Peace Treaty of 1951. Later published United States records in formulating the Treaty clearly indicate that the land as defined to form Korea did not include Takeshima, i.e. Takeshima remained as Japan's territory.

In July 1954, Korea suddenly sent a number of security guards to be stationed on Takeshima, the uninhabited island. Japan, rather than resorting to forcibly reclaiming the land, proposed that the issue be submitted to the International Court of Justice. The proposal was rejected by Korea, and the scale of Korean guards on Takeshima continued to increase, establishing lodgings and other facilities. During the while, Korea has become increasingly vocal in asserting the land to be Korea's.

Time is certainly favoring Korea, as it is their forces now stationed, and visible, on Takeshima, while the history and records fade away - perhaps not officially but definitely from the minds of people - of Japan, Korea, and other countries.

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