Japan protests ‘East Sea’ reference after North Korea missile launch


March 25 (UPI) — Japan requested the United States change the “inappropriate” labeling of a body of water after North Korea fired two ballistic missiles into the sea.

Japanese Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Manabu Sakai said Thursday at a regular press briefing that Tokyo asked the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command to mark the body of water between Japan and the Korean Peninsula as “the Sea of Japan,” after the area was marked as the “East Sea” in a U.S. statement, Kyodo News and Yonhap reported.


“It is our country’s position that the Sea of Japan is the single internationally established name,” Sakai said.

The Japanese statement comes after Capt. Mike Kafka of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command said that the United States is “aware of North Korean missile launches this morning into the East Sea,” the name South Korea uses to refer to waters off its eastern coast.

“We will continue to monitor the situation and are consulting closely with our allies and partners,” the U.S. statement said. “The U.S. commitment to the defense of [South Korea] and Japan remains ironclad.”

The statement had been removed by 5 p.m. Thursday, Korea and Japan time, according to Yonhap.

North Korea’s missile launches took place at 7:06 a.m. and 7:25 a.m. Thursday, local time. The rockets were fired from an area near Hamju, South Hamgyong Province, according to South Korea’s joint chiefs of staff.

Japan said the missiles fell into the Sea of Japan, but did not hit the country’s exclusive economic zone.

Tokyo and Seoul have yet to resolve longstanding historical disputes, but the two sides are cooperating in the wake of the missile launches.

South Korean news service News 1 reported Thursday that South Korea’s special representative for Korean Peninsula peace and security affairs, Noh Kyu-duk, and director general of the Japanese foreign ministry’s Asian and Oceanian Affairs, Takehiro Funakoshi, exchanged a phone call about North Korea’s short-range missile launch.

The two sides agreed on “close communication and cooperation” bilaterally and trilaterally with the United States, according to the report.