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    Islands called Dokdo in Korea and Takeshima in Japan are seen Friday, Aug. 10, 2012

    Textbook Diplomacy: Japan Claims Dokdo Islands From South Korea

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    History textbooks published in Japan for the beginning of the spring term are causing controversy over their description of the South-Korean controlled Dokdo Islands, a territory to which Japan also lays claim.

    History textbooks published in Japan this week are set to be pored over by the South Korean authorities, due to reports from Japan that the school books will make references to Japan's territorial claim to the Dokdo islands, which the Japanese call by the Japanese name Takeshima.

    Comprising two main islets and a group of smaller rocks with a total area of around 230,000 square meters, the Dokdo Islands lie in the Sea of Japan/East Sea, 87 kilometers from the South Korean island of Ulleung-do, and have been administered by the South Korean government since 1952.

    Controversy about the content of Japanese school textbooks was sparked in January 2014, when Japanese Education Minister Hakubun Shimomura announced that the government was revising guidelines for the content of textbooks in order to include references to the Dokdo islands as Japanese territory, reflecting the Japanese government's official policy that "Takeshima is indisputably an inherent part of the territory of Japan, in light of historical facts and based on international law," and that South Korea's ownership of the territory is an "illegal occupation," according to a statement on its website.

    On its website, the South Korean government says it is "adamant in its position" that "Dokdo in the East Sea" is South Korean territory, stating that "This fact is irrefutable geographically, historically and according to international law."

    In its directive, the Japanese education ministry included the provision that the islands be described as “integral territories of Japan,” a description also given to the Senkaku Islands, which are administered by Japan but to which China makes a territorial claim, calling the territory the Diaoyu Islands. Both China and South Korea reacted angrily to the announcement, which came after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made a call for textbooks to take a more patriotic tone. 

    School textbooks adhering to the directive were first published last spring, after which South Korea lodged a complaint with the Japanese authorities over the teaching material. The South Korean government is this week seeking to examine the content of 18 proposed textbooks currently under review, with one official announcing that the government will "sternly respond to any provocations that Japan makes in terms of Korea's territorial sovereignty." 


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    South Korea, international law, disputed territory, Dokdo Islands, China, Japan, Senkaku Islands
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