Japan and South Korea ministers abandon Washington press event amid island row

theguardian.com -- Nov 19
A long-running territorial dispute between Japan and South Korea has burst on to the global stage after their vice foreign ministers failed to attend a press conference in Washington with their US counterpart.

South Korean’s first vice-foreign minister, Choi Jong-kun, and Japan’s vice foreign minister, Takeo Mori, had been due to appear alongside the US deputy secretary of state, Wendy Sherman, on Wednesday after the three countries discussed regional tensions, including Chinese military activity in the South China Sea and North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme.

However, Sherman took questions from reporters alone after Choi and Mori pulled out of the news conference after a disagreement over the Takeshima/Dokdo islands, which are administered by South Korea but claimed by Japan.

Sherman noted “there are some bilateral differences between Japan and the Republic of Korea that are continuing to be resolved”, but said the cancellation of the joint news conference was not related to the earlier trilateral meeting, which she described as “constructive and substantive”.

Hours later, Masashi Mizobuchi, a spokesperson at the Japanese embassy in Washington, said Japanese officials had withdrawn from the media appearance in protest at a recent visit to the disputed islands by the chief of the South Korean police.

Mizobuchi said Japan had “lodged a strong protest” over the visit. “Under these circumstances, we have decided that it is inappropriate to hold a joint press conference,” he said, according to Reuters.

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