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UPDATE: Japanese diplomat withdraws from U.S News press conference on islands dispute with South Korea

T.I Ukende
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Japan’s deputy foreign minister withdrew from a scheduled press conference with his South Korean and American counterparts in Washington on Wednesday due to a territorial dispute between the two American allies, a spokesperson for the Japanese Embassy. 

Deputy 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, whom she said. 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 previous one. trilateral meeting, which he described as “constructive”. 

The three officials discussed the freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea and the commitment of their countries to promote democratic values ​​and human rights and reiterated their commitment to maintaining an inclusive, free, peaceful, stable and open Indo-Pacific region, Sherman said.

Japanese Embassy spokesman Masashi Mizobuchi said Tokyo “lodged a strong protest” on Tuesday against a visit by the South Korean police chief to the disputed islets between the countries, known as Takeshima in Japan. 

The group of windswept volcanic rocks are controlled by Seoul, which calls them Dokdo, but they are also claimed by Japan. 

“Under these circumstances, we decided that it was not appropriate 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 South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said he had nothing to add to Choi’s comments, 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 also frayed with the Japanese occupation of Korea in 1910-1945, including “comfort women,” Japan’s understatement for most Korean women forced to work in its brothels in time of war. The historic dispute has triggered trade restrictions in recent years. 

National Police Agency Commissioner General Kim Changyong’s trip to the island was made in consultation with the Foreign Ministry, given diplomatic sensitivities, South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reported, citing unidentified police sources.

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