Presidential hopefuls clash on Dokdo

The leading presidential contenders of the ruling and main opposition parties are waging a verbal war over the late President Park Chung-hee’s remarks on Dokdo.

Rep. Moon Jae-in of the opposition Democratic United Party (DUP) alleged the late former President expressed his desire to destroy the country’s easternmost islets to a senior U.S. official in 1965.

“President Park said he would like to bomb the island out of existence to resolve the problem,” Moon said, citing a diplomatic document that Yonhap News Agency disclosed on June 20, 2004.

The dossier detailing a conversation between President Park and U.S. Secretary of State Dean Rusk reveals that the former President described the territorial dispute with Japan over Dokdo as one of the irritating problems ahead of the signing of the Korea-Japan Basic Treaty on June 22, 1965.

“It is an undeniable fact that President Park Chung-hee talked about the bombing of Dokdo,” Rep. Jin Sun-mee, a spokeswoman for the Moon camp, said.

The DUP lawmaker underlined that the classified document shows that then President Park made the remarks on May 27, 1965 in the office of Rusk.

However, Rep. Park Geun-hye, the eldest daughter of the late President and leading contender of the governing Saenuri Party, denied the incident.

“Moon’s claim is not true,” Park said, demanding Moon make a formal apology for damaging the reputation of her father.

Cho Yoon-sun, a spokeswoman for Park’s campaign team, also sought a formal apology from Moon for allegedly spreading “malicious rumors and groundless allegations.”

“Moon should stop distributing distorted information for his own political gain,” she said.

Cho claimed that past diplomatic documents show it was Japan that mentioned the possibility of bombing Dokdo to resolve the territorial issue.

A memorandum of the 4th preparatory meeting for the bilateral normalization treaty on Sept 3, 1962 reveals that Yujiro Iseki, the head of the Asia division of the Japanese foreign ministry at the time, stated that “Takeshima (Dokdo) has no value. It is as large as Hibaya Park, and it would make no difference even if we bomb it and get rid of it.”

Observers say it would likely be true that Japanese officials first came up with the idea of destroying Dokdo.

Korea and Japan were unable to reach a compromise over Dokdo, which both countries continue to claim sovereignty over, when the two discussed ways to normalize the bilateral ties in the 1960s.

Seoul claims that Tokyo illegally annexed Dokdo, which lies nearer to Korea off the coast between Japan and Korea, in 1905 as a part of the latter’s move to colonize the entire Korean Peninsula. <The Korea Times/Lee Tae-hoon>

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