14 July 2005

"A Serious Act of Aggression on South Korean Sovereignty"

In a classic case of overstatement, South Korea’s Foreign Ministry responded to Japan’s expected protest over the name of the new ROK LPX – Dokdo – by saying, “Protests from the Japanese government are tantamount to a serious act of aggression on South Korean sovereignty.” The statement went further to add, “The South Korean government will consider any claim to the Dokdo islets by Japan as a provocation to Korean sovereignty. We will counter those provocations with firm resolution.”

Now, Seoul was quite aware that naming a mini-aircraft carrier/amphibious assault ship “Dokdo” would raise the ire of Tokyo. The whole issue over Dokdo is not necessarily the historical animosity (though there is a lot of that in the social context) but instead the location of the maritime border, and control over the resources below (from fish and crabs to potential energy and mineral resources). The new LPX serves to further “expand” the ROK maritime border, just as U.S. aircraft carriers and the mini-carriers that haul the Marine Expeditionary Units “expand” the U.S. to any point in the world, allowing the U.S. to exert influence from its own floating pieces of the mainland.

Seouls response to the expected Japanese protest is, not unexpectedly, over the top – “a serious act of aggression on South Korean sovereignty?!” It sounds like Hideyoshi landed his forces in Korea again and had already marched half-way to Seoul. But in a nation where political bickering runs deep in the fledgling democracy, anything that can provide a sense of national unity – even if an overblown case of nationalistic rhetoric over a few rocks and an intentional act of rhetorical provocation on the part of Seoul – is something the government sees as beneficial.

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