"What everyone is talking about today...."

Call it Dokdo or call it Takeshima, the disputed islands in the Sea of Japan, or the East Sea –as South Korea would call it— are at the center of attention again.

All Japanese newspapers are focused on the hoo-ha the Japanese government is causing by re-wording the guidelines for referral of the islands in manuals for school teachers.

According to the Asahi Shimbun, the past manual stated: “There is a need to accurately handle the fact that Japan has asked (Russia) for the return of the Northern Territories,” however, now, it has been re-worded to say; “While touching upon the differences in the arguments made by Japan and South Korea over the Takeshima islets, there is a need to deepen understanding about the territory of Japan in much the same manner as with the Northern Territories” and that the “the Northern Territories are an integral part of Japanese territory.” They also quip “Up until now, Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda had managed not to offend this country’s neighbor, unlike some of his predecessors”….*hint, Koizumi*

The South Korean newspapers and government have reacted strongly, “recalling Ambassador to Japan, Kwon Chul-hyun, temporarily and reinforcing control of Dokdo” according to the Chosun Iibo (but not the Japanese newspapers, who say there are "indications". The newspaper goes further in their editorial section by stating: “The Republic of Korea has effective control over Dokdo. Just teaching Japanese students that Dokdo belongs to them will not turn Korean territory into Japanese soil. As long as Japan does not annex Dokdo by military means, there is no chance whatsoever that Dokdo will become Japanese.”

This is in contrast to the Yomiuri Online, which clearly tries to distance itself from the dispute: “The government, which holds the view that the group of islets is Japanese territory, decided to mention South Korea’s sovereignty claims over the islets in the manual.”

Even though all Japanese and South Korean newspapers are covering it, it is obvious that the Japanese ones are playing it down, obviously careful not to refer to the Takeshima islands as part of Japanese territory and not to stir up more anti-Japanese sentiment. Meanwhile, the South Korean ones are less ambiguous, showing pictures of protesters burning the Japanese flag and mentioning the need to reinforce the military defense of the islets.

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