Historical facts concerning Takeshima go back a long way, to the mid-15th century, when the "Ulleungdo Empty Island Policy" was implemented by the Joseon Dynasty of Korea.
From the time when the Oya and Murakawa clans of the Hokinokuni region were granted permission to sail to Ulleungdo by the Edo Shogunate in 1616, Takeshima can be said to have been under Japan's operational control as a transit point and fishing-and-hunting spot.
In the Meiji Era, Oki Islands people began engaging in seal-catching and other operations on Takeshima. On January 28, 1905, in order to clamp down on over-fishing, the Japanese government officially named the islets "Takeshima" and put them under the control of the Oki Islands Office.
Shimane Prefecture duly published these government actions on February 22 of that year (Shimane Prefectural Notice No. 40).
Thus, by the time of World War 2, territorial sovereignty over Takeshima had been declared to rest with the nation of Japan; internally, Shimane Prefecture had administrative sovereignty, and externally, sovereignty was asserted through prior occupation of a terra nullius, with basis in modern international law (prior occupation being one of the modes of acquiring entitlement to possession).
Subsequently, up until World War 2, Oki Islands fishermen (mainly from the Kumi area in the former Goka Village) caught seals and harvested turban shells, abalone and other organisms in Takeshima. Logbooks and photographs survive as testimony to their activities in this period.
The historical fact that we had made effective use of Takeshima in this way and thereby established dominion over it, is the principal ground for Okinoshima-cho's claim to territorial rights in it.
With Japan's World War 2 defeat in 1945, Shimane Prefecture's exercise of administrative authority over Takeshima was suspended for a time by order of the occupation forces. But in the San Francisco Peace Treaty that was concluded between the United States and Japan in September 1951 (taking force on April 28, 1952), Takeshima was determined as Japanese territory.
This panicked South Korea's then President Syngman Rhee into making the abrupt move of establishing the "Syngman Rhee Line", which was a unilateral declaration of marine sovereignty, on January 18, 1952, ahead of the Treaty's entry into force.
In 1954, South Korea set up a permanent garrison on Takeshima. This garrison has illegally occupied Takeshima ever since, for over half a century.
It has to be said that it is a matter of extreme regret that we are still faced with such a situation today.
What is more, if this illegal occupation is continued into the future in this erosive manner, then however it may be under current international law, there will be no wonder if Takeshima becomes South Korean territory as an accomplished fact. In view of this, the enactment of Takeshima Day at the nonpartisan suggestion of the Shimane Prefectural Assemblymen in 2005 takes on a major significance for us the people of Okinoshima-cho.
Every year, the Oki Alliance for Establishing Takeshima Territorial Rights has been implementing activities calling on the national authorities to set up a Takeshima Task Force in the Cabinet Office and take other measures for the early establishment of territorial rights. But most of the measures have still not materialized, and the Alliance intends to go on doggedly with its activities until the day when they become reality.
The New Agreement on Fisheries concluded between Japan and South Korea in September 1999 designated a "provisional sea zone" around the islands as a compromise measure that shelved the Takeshima Problem – which was the biggest issue. The extent of the zone was determined and settled.
Nonetheless, even after that Agreement, South Korea maintained that Takeshima was its own national territory (called "Dokdo" in Korean), and determined a zone extending for 12 nautical miles (22 km; 1 nautical mile is 1,852 m) around Takeshima as South Korean territorial waters. Furthermore, that nation has monopolized the fishing grounds of the provisional sea zone, creating a situation where Japanese fishing boats are unable to operate.
Also, the flag state principle is applied to monitoring and management of the provisional sea zone, so that regulation of the total allowable catch (TAC) and monitoring for contravening fishing operations are restricted to their own nation's ships. Given this situation, there cannot be said to be a functioning management system for the fishing grounds in these waters.
As a result, exploitation of the provisional sea zone is "joint" in name only, and the zone is unregulated – which means that its resources might dry up.
In these circumstances, our Oki Islands fishermen are obliged to go to distant locations off the coasts of Niigata and Akita Prefectures to conduct offshore fishing for the red snow crab, Japanese ivory shell and other species that are part of their business. We have to say that this entails immeasurable burdens in time and costs, so that the fishermen are suffering immense damages.
We believe that the problems of territorial sovereignty and securing of fishing rights are not matters to be negotiated around a table. Rather, it would be better for the two nations to work for orderly management and conservation of the provisional sea zone and to cooperate and collaborate to restore it to being a joint fishing ground, while further evolving the good and friendly relations that they have cultivated to date.
We will be continuing to make demands that the government must work to secure safe fishing operations in the provisional sea zone and to bring about conservation management by both nations, at the earliest possible date.
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