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Thursday, November 30, 2023

Korea blasts Japan’s counterstrike plan, Dokdo claim

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A senior diplomat from the Japanese Embassy in Korea is summoned over Japan’s latest claims over the Dokdo islets and gets on the elevator at the Foreign Ministry in central Seoul Friday. [YONHAP]
A senior diplomat from the Japanese Embassy in Korea is summoned over Japan’s latest claims over the Dokdo islets and gets on the elevator at the Foreign Ministry in central Seoul Friday. [YONHAP]

South Korea is expressing concern over Japan’s desire for “counterstrike capabilities” and its renewed claim over the Dokdo islets in the East Sea.

Counterstrike capabilities — the ability to hit enemy bases with long-range missiles — and the territorial claim were included in a revision to Japan’s national security strategy issued Friday.

South Korea argues for closer consultation on defense issues and worries that the national security strategy could violate Japan’s Constitution, often called the Peace Constitution for the limits it place on the military.

“It is necessary to have close consultations with us and seek our approval in advance on issues that have a significant impact on the security of the Korean Peninsula and our national interest,” a Korean Foreign Ministry official said Friday.

“It’s desirable that related discussions will be carried out transparently in a way that contributes to regional peace and stability, while upholding the spirit of the Peace Constitution.”

A Japanese government official told reporters on Friday that Japan does not need permission from other countries regarding the exercise of its counterattack capabilities, adding it’s a matter for Tokyo to “decide on its own.”

On Friday, the Cabinet of Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio approved the country’s new national security strategy, national defense strategy and defense buildup program.

The revised national security strategy, the first revision in nine years, includes provisions that would enable the country to have capabilities to directly carry out counterattacks on enemy missile-firing bases. This could potentially allow for Japan to launch direct strikes against missile bases in North Korea or China.

Japan also revealed it will double its military spending over the next five years, citing threats posed by China and North Korea.

While stopping short of a constitutional amendment, the security documents indicate that Japan is veering away from the pacifist Constitution, which was written by the United States and renounces war.

Over the past decade, hawkish Japanese politicians, including late Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, intensified the push for an amendment to Article 9 of Japan’s Constitution, which forbids Japan’s exercising of collective self-defense, or the right to wage war, outside its borders. The Japanese public has been divided on this issue.

The national security strategy document also describes the Dokdo islets, called Takeshima by Tokyo, as Japan’s “inherent territory.”

“Our government strongly protests the inclusion into the national security strategy of its wrongful claim to Dokdo, which is our inherent territory historically, geographically and by international law, and calls for the immediate deletion of this,” said Lim Soo-suk, a Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman said in a statement released Friday.

Korea will “sternly respond” to any “provocations” over the islets, the statement said.

He stressed that the Japanese government’s repeated “wrongful claims” to Dokdo is “not helpful in the efforts for the establishment of the future-oriented Korea-Japan relationship.”

South Korea rejects any suggestion of a territorial dispute as the Dokdo islets are historically, geographically and under international law an integral part of Korean territory. The Dokdo islets also serve as a painful reminder of Japan’s imperialistic past and its 1910-45 colonial rule over the peninsula.

The Foreign Ministry on Friday summoned a senior diplomat from the Japanese Embassy in Seoul to lodge a protest over the Dokdo claims. The Korean Defense Ministry called in a defense attaché from the Japanese Embassy the same day.

Japan began alleging Korea’s “illegal occupation” of Dokdo in defense-related documents in 2018, though it had previously asserted claims over the islets.

Tokyo’s previous national security strategy, written in 2013, described that its policy is to resolve territorial disputes over Dokdo “peacefully and in accordance with international law.”

The Japanese government explained the latest revisions to its security documents to Seoul in advance, according to the Korean Foreign Ministry.

“The North Korea threat is a direct threat not only to South Korea but also to Japan,” said a senior presidential office official. “In that respect, its appears Japan is also deeply worried about its own defense, and I think it’s something that can be discussed in the big framework of security cooperation between Korea, the United States and Japan.”

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]