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Legacy of war in Asia

Japan is scouring world for references to ‘East Sea’ to wipe the name off maps

The Japanese Foreign Ministry is making a similar bid for a pair of rocky islets

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 10 June, 2017, 12:50pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 10 June, 2017, 9:37pm

The Japanese government is calling on its citizens abroad to contact its diplomatic missions if they find a map showing the Sea of Japan inscribed as the East Sea, the name used by South Korea for the body of water lying between the two countries.

The move, coming amid a dispute between Tokyo and Seoul over the area’s name, is aimed at having publishers of such maps “correct” the labelling to Japan’s preference. But it remains unclear whether any publisher would comply with such a request and the government is likely to find it hard to sell its case.

The Japanese Foreign Ministry is making a similar bid for Takeshima, a pair of rocky islets in the Sea of Japan (East Sea) controlled by South Korea. Seoul calls them Dokdo. South Korea is actively seeking to have the names East Sea and Dokdo internationally accepted.

South Korea has long demanded the waters be called the East Sea, arguing that the term Sea of Japan only became popular globally during Japan’s colonial rule of the peninsula.

Japan claims that the Sea of Japan has been used internationally since the 19th century, before the peninsula came under Japanese colonial rule in the early 20th century.

The International Hydrographic Organisation in 2012 decided to continue calling the body of water the Sea of Japan as it is internationally recognised.

South Korea and Japan have also been contesting ownership of the Takeshima islets since the early 1950s, which culminated in South Korea dispatching a permanent battalion there in 1954. Tokyo has accused it of “illegally” occupying them.