How much worse can Korea-Japan relations get?
The Japanese government has decided to define the Korea-controlled Dokdo Island and the disputed island chain in the East China Sea as its own territory, in a manual on government guidelines for teachers and middle and high school textbooks.
With regard to Dokdo, the manual includes a statement that Korea is [quote] "illegally occupying Takeshima," which is what Japan calls the islets, and [quote] "the Japanese government is protesting against such action."
On the East China Sea islands, Tokyo says it is [quote] "effectually controlling the island chain, and there is no territorial disputes to resolve."
Japanese Education Minister Hakubun Shimomura said it is natural for a country to properly teach its inherent territory.
The manual contains government guidelines for teaching, and has a major influence over the textbook screening process, as there is a regulation forcing all textbooks to follow the manual.
Japan usually revises the guidelines and its manual every 10 years, and the next revision was supposed to take place in 2016.
But, Kyodo News reports that it is unprecedented for the Japanese government to make such changes earlier than scheduled.
In 2008, the Japanese government had included a statement in its manual that [quote] "there is a difference in opinion between Korea and Japan on the Dokdo Island, and that there needs to be efforts to strengthen their understanding on the territory."
Even then -- when Japan didn't say Dokdo was Japanese territory-- the two nations' ties were under great strain.
But, now, with Japan putting it in such strong words, it's hard to predict where Korea-Japan relations can go from here.
Eoh Jin-joo, Arirang News.