Wall Street Journal on August 17, 2012, reported that Japan raised the stakes in its territorial dispute with South Korea , saying it would seek to take its claim of sovereignty over disputed islets to the International Court of Justice. Excerpts below:

“The government has decided that in order to resolve the matter in a calm, fair and peaceful manner, based on international law, we plan to suggest a joint filing of a case to the International Court of Justice,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said at a post-Cabinet meeting news conference.

After South Korean president Lee Myung-bak visited the disputed islands last week, Japan recalled its ambassador to South Korea and cancelled a planned meeting between the nations’ finance ministers. The islets, the Liancourt Rocks, are known as Takeshima in Japan and Dokdo in Korea.

The action was quickly rejected by Seoul, which said that it opposed any such move.

Under ICJ rules, both countries must agree to take a dispute of this kind before the court.

Kotaro Ito, a researcher at the Canon Institute for Global Studies in Tokyo, said that Japan was unlikely to succeed in bringing a case before the ICJ.

In an additional ratcheting up of measures, Japan’s finance minister Jun Azumi said that Japan may not extend an existing currency swap agreement with South Korea.

While Mr. Azumi was not specific, it is believed that Japan would look to terminate a major portion of the current $70 billion swap deal when it expires at the end of October, keeping a smaller $13 billion portion in place. Under the swap agreement, the countries agree to lend each other their currencies in case of a foreign exchange shortage. With both countries holding large foreign currency reserves, the measures are seen as more symbolic.

The Japanese government also sought to draw a line under the latest flare-up with China over a separate dispute regarding islands in the East China Sea.

Fujimura announced that authorities would deport 14 activists from Hong Kong arrested for landing on a disputed island, avoiding a trial that could have fueled the growing territorial tensions in the region and infuriated neighbors such as China.

The islands are controlled by Japan, which calls them the Senkaku, and claimed by China, where they are called the Diaoyu. Taiwan also claims the islands. China has pressured Japan to drop any idea of filing charges for the landing on what it considers its territory.



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