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Japan may refer Takeshima to ICJ

Publication Date : 12-08-2012


But the international court cannot open a trial unless both Japan and South Korea agree


Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba said Saturday the government is considering referring the issue of sovereignty over the Takeshima islands to the International Court of Justice in The Hague, as a countermove to the visit to the islands by South Korean President Lee Myung Bak.

Lee travelled Friday to the islands, which are part of Shimane Prefecture. In response, the government temporarily recalled Japanese Ambassador to Seoul Masatoshi Muto and discussed with him actions to be taken against South Korea.

"We'll consider peaceful options to solve the issue under international law, including filing a suit at the International Court of Justice," Gemba told reporters after the meeting. "We have to make the international community firmly understand our claims by demonstrating them more clearly."

Gemba said that if Japan filed a suit, it would happen "before long". However, the ICJ cannot open a trial unless both of the nations in a dispute agree.

Japan has already proposed to South Korea the idea of referring the Takeshima issue to the ICJ twice in 1954 and 1962. But Seoul refused, saying there was no territorial dispute.

South Korea has illegally occupied the islands through such means as stationing armed guards there. Diplomatic sources said Seoul is highly unlikely to agree to a trial.

Gemba said Japan is considering filing a suit in The Hague because "the president's visit made it unnecessary for us to consider [a suit's negative effect on the overall relationship between Japan and South Korea]".

Gemba and Muto's Saturday meeting was also attended by other officials, including Vice Foreign Minister Kenichiro Sasae. The talks lasted for about an hour.

During the meeting, they also decided to set up a new organ in the government to strengthen Japan's efforts on territorial issues. The ICJ is a permanent judicial entity of the United Nations. It conducts trials over legal disputes among nations.

In principle, trials start there if both countries in a dispute agree to bring the issue to the ICJ, or if a plaintiff nation files a suit and the other nation agrees.

Nations also can declare in advance that they are obligated to participate in ICJ trials if a case is brought against them. Nations that make this prior commitment are allowed to sue other similarly pledged nations and bring issues involving them to the ICJ.

Japan has declared such an obligation, but South Korea has not. Thus even if Japan sues South Korea at the ICJ, South Korea is not obliged to accept the suit.

S. Korea rejects trial idea

In Seoul, South Korean government officials said Saturday that Seoul will not agree to bring the Takeshima issue to the ICJ.

One official said: "Dokdo [the South Korean name for the Takeshima islands] is historically and under international law an integral part of South Korean territory. There is no reason to hold such a trial." -- With a report from Takayuki Nakagawa


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