The governor of the western Japanese prefecture of Shimane has urged the central government to stand firm in diplomatic negotiations with South Korea to resolve the issue of the Takeshima Islands.
South Korea controls the islands in the Sea of Japan. Japan claims them. The Japanese government maintains the islands are an inherent part of Japan's territory. It says South Korea is illegally occupying them.
On Wednesday, Governor Maruyama Tatsuya spoke at an event held in celebration of the annual Takeshima Day, which marks the incorporation of the islands into Shimane Prefecture over a century ago.
The event was open to members of the public for the first time in two years, following a drop in coronavirus infections. About 200 people attended.
The governor expressed deep regret over recent developments in South Korea, such as government officials and parliamentarians setting foot on Takeshima and maritime surveys and defense drills in waters around the islands.
Maruyama said these actions are aimed at making South Korea's illegal occupation of Takeshima an established fact.
At the event, Cabinet Office Parliamentary Vice-Minister Nakano Hideyuki pledged the government will make every effort to garner support from the international community in firmly conveying Japan's stance to South Korea.
South Korea, which calls the islands Dokdo, is not happy with the commemorative event.
The spokesperson of the South Korean Foreign Ministry issued a statement on Wednesday saying Seoul strongly protests Japan's reiteration of unjust sovereignty claims over Dokdo, and sternly calls for the immediate abolition of the event.
The statement said Dokdo is clearly an integral part of Korean territory historically, geographically and in terms of international law, and that the Japanese government must immediately stop making unjustified claims over the islands and squarely face history in a humble manner.
The ministry's director general for Asia and Pacific affairs, Seo Min-jung, summoned the deputy chief of mission at the Japanese Embassy, Kumagai Naoki, and lodged a protest.
Kumagai rebutted the claims, saying that Takeshima is an inherent Japanese territory both historically and in terms of international law.