Japanese diplomat withdraws from US press conference over islet-South Korea dispute

Assistant Secretary of State Wendy Sherman departs after speaking about the situation in Afghanistan at the State Department in Washington, DC, United States, August 18, 2021. Andrew Harnik / Pool via REUTERS

WASHINGTON, Nov. 17 (Reuters) – Japan’s Deputy Foreign Minister withdrew from a scheduled press conference with his South Korean and American counterparts in Washington on Wednesday over a territorial dispute between the two American allies a spokesperson for the Japanese embassy said.

US Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman was left alone to answer questions in the absence of South Korea’s First Deputy Foreign Minister Choi Jong Kun and Japanese Deputy Foreign Minister Takeo Mori, who she had just met for three hours.

Sherman began by noting that “there are bilateral disputes between Japan and the Republic of Korea that continue to be resolved,” but said the cancellation of the joint press conference was unrelated to the meeting. previous trilateral, which she described as “constructive (and) substantive.”

The three officials discussed the freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea and their countries’ commitment to promoting democratic values ​​and human rights, and reaffirmed their commitment to maintain an Indo region. peaceful inclusive, free, peaceful, stable and open, Sherman said. .

Japanese Embassy spokesman Masashi Mizobuchi said Tokyo had “lodged a strong protest” on Tuesday against a visit by the South Korean police chief to disputed islets between the countries, known as Takeshima in Japan. The group of windswept volcanic rocks is controlled by Seoul, which calls them Dokdo, but is also claimed by Japan.

“Under these circumstances, we decided it was inappropriate to hold a joint press conference,” Mizobuchi said in an email.

Choi told reporters in Washington that the Japanese side informed them of its decision not to attend the press conference shortly before the start of the trilateral talks.

A spokesperson for the South Korean Foreign Ministry said he had nothing to add to Choi’s remarks, but Seoul’s position remains unchanged that Dokdo is the country’s territory historically, geographically and by virtue of of international law.

Ties between the two nations have also been frayed because of the occupation of Korea by Japan from 1910 to 1945, including about “comfort women”, the euphemism of Japan to refer mainly to forced Korean women. to work in his brothels in times of war. The historic dispute has sparked tit-for-tat trade restrictions in recent years.

National Police Commissioner General Kim Chang-yong’s trip to the island was made in consultation with the Foreign Ministry in view of diplomatic sensitivities, South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reported, citing law enforcement sources. unidentified.

But it was not intended to be made public and only became known when it was inadvertently put on its public weekly program, according to the report.

The visit to the island, carried out by a small detachment of South Korean police, was the first by a national police chief since 2009, Yonhap said.

Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk and Simon Lewis; Additional reporting by David Brunnstrom in Washington and Hyonhee Shin in Seoul; Editing by Stephen Coates, Peter Cooney and Kim Coghill

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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