South Korea's complaint about US use of term 'Sea of Japan' is dismissed

South Korea's defence ministry's objection to the US using the term 'Sea of Japan' is dismissed

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 21 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 21 May, 2013, 3:35am

Academics and the Japanese government have dismissed the complaint by South Korea's defence ministry about US Forces Korea referring to the body of water between the Korean peninsula and Japan as the "Sea of Japan".

The formal complaint led to a press release issued by the US 7th Fleet about exercises involving the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Nimitz being recalled. A swiftly revised version described the manoeuvres as taking place in "international waters east of the Korean peninsula".

I think the Korean side should be more cool-headed over this matter
Yoichi Shimada, professor of international relations at Fukui Prefectural University

The bureaucrats at the ministry in Seoul were somewhat mollified by the change, but made it clear they would have preferred the US military to identify the area as the "East Sea".

Even better, from the Korean point of view, would be for the waters to appear on maps marked as the "Sea of Korea".

"The general attitude of the Koreans right now is just to protest anything related to Japan," said Yoichi Shimada, a professor of international relations at Fukui Prefectural University. "It has almost become an obsession on their part.

"I think their claims for the East Sea to be recognised are related to the issue of Takeshima, but this is all irrelevant," he said, referring to the two rocky islands that Japan claims as its territory but are manned by a police detachment from South Korea, which marks the islands on its maps as Dok-do.

"The Sea of Japan is the proper and recognised name," Shimada said.

"The Tsushima Straits is generally known internationally as the Korean Straits and the Japanese government has never protested about that.

"I think the Korean side should be more cool-headed over this matter."

The Japanese government takes a similarly dismissive attitude towards the South Korean claim, with a spokesman saying: "Our position has not changed. The name Sea of Japan has long been internationally established and accepted for the area concerned."

An official of the South Korean government suggested that the complaint filed with the US military was "just one effort to make it known that the East Sea belongs to South Korea, not Japan.

"The US is very strong and it would be very good for South Korea if Washington would recognise our claim."

But Washington is clearly reluctant to be drawn into the dispute - officials declined to comment to even Stars and Stripes, the US Forces newspaper.

In the past, the US military has stated that it holds to the position that the "Sea of Japan" designation be used on all maps, plans and correspondence as it adheres to the titles used by the US Board on Geographic Names.