Well, it looks like Tōkyō's and Seoul's game of chicken is over for now. Emphasis on "for now."
The Washington Post reports Japan is withdrawing its plans for a survey by its Coast Guard of the waters not far from Tokto/Takeshima, and South Korea has agreed to delay plans to submit name proposals for underwater features. Both countries agreed to hold more talks as early as next month on demarcating their sea boundaries, as part of a deal that ended two days of negotiations aimed at easing tensions.
Japanese Vice Foreign Minister Shotaro Yachi and his delegation made an emergency trip to Seoul last Friday, meeting with South Korean Fice Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan [Yu Myŏnghwan] to try to break the impasse triggered by Japan's plan to send survey ships into the disputed waters. South Korea responded twenty gunboats to the area, warning of a possible physical confrontation if Japan proceeded.
I tend not to write much about Tokto on this blog because it's too much of the same-old-same-old. In fact, much of what I think about the issue can be summed up—with little change—from this year-old post. The Marmot's Hole's comments pages bring some up-to-date insights, but the arguments about who owns what are the same, stale offerings from a year or two ago, usually with the usual suspects.
No point in adding to the din.
But I will say a few points about the most recent round. If, as both the Japanese and the Korean press reported, the Japanese Coast Guard survey does, just like Shimane Prefecture's "Takeshima Day" declaration last year, stem from frustrations by Japanese groups over alleged failure by the Korean government and/or Korean fishers to live up to the 1999 ROK-Japan fisheries agreement, then I think they need to dispense with this kind of tactic and address that issue head-on.
Frankly, I don't know if the complaint by fishermen in Shimane or Tottori Prefectures have any merit. If they do, then it is incumbent upon the Korean side to live up to the forward-looking agreement penned by former ROK President Kim Daejung and former Japanese Prime Minister Keizō Obuchi. But like I said, I don't know, because any legitimate message toward that end is completely washed away by the rising emotions—and not just on the Korean side—intrinsic to a discussion about who holds sovereignty over Tokto/Takeshima.
Ditto with the Japanese government using the Tokto/Takeshima issue to try to prevent Korea from opposing in an international forum the continued international use of the name Sea of Japan for what Korea calls the East Sea. The ratcheting up of tensions serves little useful purpose in addressing those issues to which the Tokto/Takeshima issue is extraneous.
As for South Korea backing down the issue of naming underwater marine features in the East Sea/Sea of Japan, I'm glad to see that the Roh Administration was willing to negotiate and compromise. More importantly, if any of these hydrographic or submarine names are to be changed to something in Korean, I'd rather see it happen after a new administration returns to the McCune-Reischauer Romanization system's rendering of Korean names.
Note for googling purposes: Tokto is also Romanized as Tokdo and Dokdo. It is often referred to as the Liancourt Rocks.
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