Japan presses claim to S Korea-held islets at annual event

Japan pressed its claim to a pair of South Korea-controlled islets at an annual ceremony on Saturday amid lingering tensions between the two countries over wartime issues.
In a speech, Shimane Gov Tatsuya Maruyama criticized South Korea, saying it is "strengthening movements to make the occupation of Takeshima an established fact" and called for a resolute response from the Japanese government on the territorial issue.
The islets in the Sea of Japan, northwest of the prefecture's main coast line, are known as Takeshima in Japan and Dokdo in South Korea.
The ceremony has been held every Feb. 22 since 2006 after the Shimane prefectural government designated the day as "Takeshima Day" the previous year, a century after bringing them under its jurisdiction following Cabinet approval.
Takashi Fujiwara, a Cabinet Office parliamentary vice minister, who represented the central government at the annual event, said, "In light of historical facts and also international law, Takeshima is an inherent territory (of Japan)."
South Korea later summoned a senior Japanese Embassy official to the Foreign Ministry in Seoul to lodge a protest with the anniversary ceremony in Shimane Prefecture.
In a statement, a ministry official demanded that the annual event be abolished, saying the islets are South Korean territory, both historically and under international law.
The tone of the statement changed little from those from recent years.
As part of efforts to demonstrate its position on the Takeshima issue, the central government has sent a representative of Fujiwara's rank each year since 2013.
The islets, covering a total land area of 0.2 square kilometer, consist of volcanic rock with little vegetation or drinking water. But they are located in rich fishing grounds.
South Korea has stationed security personnel on the islets, located roughly 200 kilometers from either country, since 1954, and taken effective control of them.
This year's ceremony came as bilateral ties remain strained over wartime issues, particularly because of rulings by South Korea's top court in 2018 ordering Japanese companies to compensate people it found were subject to forced labor during Japan's 1910 to 1945 colonial rule.
Japan has argued the rulings go against a 1965 bilateral agreement that settled wartime claims and, therefore, violate international law.

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