Japan held an annual rally yesterday over Tokyo’s claim to a set of tiny islands controlled by South Korea, which has been at the center of a long-standing territorial feud.
About 500 people flocked to the event in Shimane Prefecture in western Japan, including the highest-ranking Japanese government official ever to attend, and local and national politicians.
Seoul reacted angrily to the rally and the expected presence of Aiko Shimajiri, a parliamentary secretary in Tokyo’s Cabinet Office, with South Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman Cho Tai-young describing it as “greatly regrettable.”
“Japan should not conduct such behaviors [if it hopes] to promote friendship between Seoul and Tokyo,” he added before the ceremony began, warning of “appropriate measures.”
Tokyo refers to the islands in the Sea of Japan (also known as the East Sea) as Takeshima, while they are known as Dokdo in South Korea.
“Takeshima is an integral part of our country,” Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference in Tokyo. “We dispatched our parliamentary secretary as a matter of course.”
Police officers were deployed to guard the Shimane Prefectural Assembly Hall, the venue of the rally, as protesters from both countries were expected to stage separate demonstrations outside.
Relations between the two countries have regularly been strained by the territorial dispute and other issues of contention arising from Japan’s 1910-1945 colonial rule over the Korean Peninsula.