Obstacles mar Japan-Dokdo route, casting shadow over Tokyo’s claims

As Japan continues to renew its false territorial
claims over Korea’s easternmost Dokdo Island,… we saw if we could get there from Japan. Our Lee Ji-won gave it a shot. Japan has made repeated claims to Korea’s
Dokdo Island, but in that case, shouldn’t it be possible to get to Dokdo from Japan? After all, it’s relatively easy to get to
Dokdo from Korea, and 100 to 200-thousand people go there every year,. while an estimated 1-point-8 million people
are expected to have visited the islets by next year… since the islets first opened
to the public in 2005. We thought that it should be possible for
a country that claims sovereignty over Dokdo,… like Japan,… to provide its citizens with
passage to the islets. So we set out to see if it was possible. After landing at Japan’s Yonago Airport,…
we went to Shichirui Port in Shimane Prefecture, where we caught a ferry. After two hours on board, we landed on the
Oki Islands. “Japan’s northwest archipelago is the country’s
closest territory to Dokdo,… with a distance of 157 kilometers. And to support their argument that ‘Dokdo
belongs to Japan,’… posters and monuments on Dokdo are displayed around the islands.” For example, right at the disembarkation point,
visitors are greeted by a sign that reads: “Dokdo is and has always been part of the
Oki Islands.” Japan claims to have incorporated Dokdo, or
Takeshima as they call it, into the Oki Islands in 1905 — a claim that Seoul rejects. Dogojima is the inhabited island furthest
from the Japanese mainland… and no cruise ships or ferries sail any further west from
here, so we got onto a small fishing boat to see how close to Dokdo we could get. “Have you ever been to Dokdo?” “No, I haven’t.” “We heard that the Japanese used to fish around
Dokdo about 100 years ago.” “I’ve heard about that, but I’ve never met
anyone who’s actually been there. I’ve only seen them on TV.” But after getting about 14 miles from Dogojima,
we had to head back because the waves were getting too high. In fact, Japanese boats can’t get any closer
than 12 nautical miles, or a little over 22 kilometers, from Dokdo. According to the UN Convention on the Law
of the Sea from 1982, that’s the limit for a country’s territorial waters. A similar law was passed in Korea in 1977,…
whereby the Korean Coast Guard patrols the islets 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, within
the 12-nautical-mile zone. Now, even though we couldn’t get to Dokdo
from Japan, we visited several places on the Oki Islands that claim Dokdo is Japanese territory. The Kumi Takeshima History Museum displays
a number of pictures and maps of Dokdo, as well as records of Japanese fishermen’s activities
on the islets. Our guide was Maeda Yoshihiki, a councilman
who’s contributed a great deal to getting the museum built… and worked to raise awareness
of Japan’s claims to Dokdo to the Japanese people. He is also the person who put up the Dokdo
billboard that reads: “Give back Takeshima and the sea.” “I put this billboard here because it is the
people from this village who went to Dokdo to fish, before historical issues became sensitive
issues… and after which they could no longer go.” Japan has been relentless in its attempts
to breach the 12-nautical-mile territorial limit — as it did in 2006, amid heightened
diplomatic tensions between the two countries. Its patrol boats still get within 13 nautical
miles of Dokdo about twice a week. But the attempts have always been blocked
by the Korean patrol boats guarding the island. Mr. Yoshihiki hopes to visit Dokdo someday,
but it’s unlikely he’ll ever make it. Although Japanese citizens can get to Dokdo
through Korea, they don’t get much encouragement from the Japanese government,
as that would be an acknowledgement that there is no official way for Japanese people to
reach Dokdo, without going through Korea. Lee Ji-won, Arirang News, Oki Islands.

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