Tokyo to hold informal talks with Seoul over Sea of Japan name

Source: The Straits Times

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TOKYO, Feb 6, 2019, The Yomiuri Shimbun. The government will hold informal talks with South Korea over the name of the Sea of Japan as early as this spring, it has been learned, reported The Japan News.

The sea is currently described solely as the “Japan Sea” in the guidelines compiled by the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO). Seoul has been calling for revising the guidelines, demanding that the sea also be referred to as the “East Sea.”

Although the government has agreed to have informal talks with Seoul, Tokyo firmly maintains its stance that discussions should be carried out based on practical points of view, such as whether the revision could serve the safety of navigation. Therefore, the government will likely refuse to discuss the possibility of using two names for the sea, according to sources.

The IHO publishes “Limits of Oceans and Seas,” which contains such information as the names of seas around the world and serves as guidelines for each country to compile sea charts.

From its first edition in 1929 to the latest edition compiled in 1953, the Sea of Japan is referred to as the “Japan Sea.” This serves as the basis that the current name is internationally recognized as the sole name for the sea.

Meanwhile, South Korea has been repeatedly raising the naming issue with the international community, insisting that “East Sea” should also be used. South Korea, together with North Korea, has suggested revising the IHO guidelines. The international organization decided to present a report on revising the guidelines at the next general meeting slated for 2020 and asked Tokyo to have informal talks with South Korea and North Korea before the meeting.

According to diplomatic sources, the Japanese side had been reluctant to hold talks, but the IHO secretariat has strongly requested that Japan do so. As a member of the international organization, Japan concluded that it should not oppose revising the guidelines if there are reasonable grounds. For these reasons, Japan told the IHO it has accepted the request.

The talks will likely be held in a third country as early as this spring as the schedule is currently being arranged. Representatives from the IHO secretariat and several other countries interested in revisions are expected to take part in the talks, the sources said.

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