Plan to install sea wall, tourist facilities draws protest from Japan
South Korea will establish a new sea wall and tourist facilities in waters off Dokdo by as early as 2016, aiming to bolster its control over the long-disputed rocky islets, officials said.
The plan is the latest in a series of the government’s measures to guard against Japan’s repeated territorial claim over the islets, which it calls Takeshima. Seoul officials said the 400 billion won ($344.4 million) package aimed to galvanize tourism and facilitate access there.
Under the plan, the Korean government will install a 210-meter-long breakwater, an underwater park and viewing chamber, plus a 200-meter road connecting the east and west islets.
The new breakwater is more than 20 times larger than the existing one so as to provide a safe anchorage for a cruise ship of up to 5,000 tons and a 2,000-ton vessel simultaneously. The current wharf can accommodate only a few boats of around 300 tons at a time, said officials at the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs.
“The existing fragile sea wall has made it difficult to dock at Dokdo in case of high seas,” an official said.
“We’re trying to make the islands accessible and enjoyable for tourists.”
But the plan may hit a snag due to persistent diplomatic tension between South Korea and Japan over the islets, about 90 kilometers east of the Korean shore. Dokdo lies in rich fishing grounds in the East Sea and is also believed to be surrounded by large natural gas reserves.
Japanese Ambassador to Korea Masatoshi Muto met Vice Foreign Minister Park Suk-hwan on Friday and asked if it was true that the Korean government is promoting the project, revealing his government’s position against it, according to Foreign Ministry officials.
Park responded that it was not a matter that the Japanese government should meddle in because the islets are part of Korea’s territory, the officials added.
Tokyo has reiterated its territorial claim through school textbooks and other publications, while Seoul has maintained dominium since 1953 with a small group of maritime police officers.
Early this year, the Japanese Foreign Ministry banned officials from using Korean Air following the flag carrier’s test flight of its Airbus A380 jetliner over Dokdo, which it considered “provocative.”
Last August, the Korean government turned three Japanese lawmakers back home upon their arrival at a Korean airport. The hardliners, from Japan’s opposition Liberal Democratic Party, were attempting to visit Dokdo, repeating the country’s six-decade claim.
Tensions escalated again early this month as the Korean Foreign Ministry rebuffed Japan’s request to cancel a musical concert on the islets.
By Shin Hyon-hee (firstname.lastname@example.org)