Japan has lodged a protest with South Korea as flags hoisted during an exhibition match by the unified Korean women’s ice hockey team for the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics showed disputed islets in the Sea of Japan, the government’s top spokesman said Monday.
“We cannot accept the flag in light of Japan’s stance over the sovereignty of Takeshima and it is extremely regrettable,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a press conference, referring to the South-Korean controlled, Japanese-claimed islands that are called Dokdo in Korean.
Suga said Tokyo will continue to urge Seoul to take “appropriate measures” over the issue, which has long been a source of diplomatic friction between the two neighbors.
Last month, Seoul demanded the Japanese government close a newly-opened museum exhibiting items that back Tokyo’s claim to the islets. Tokyo rejected the call.
The flags in question were used at the venue of the inter-Korean women hockey team’s first game against Sweden on Sunday in Incheon, west of Seoul.
After North Korean leader Kim Jong Un struck a conciliatory tone on ties with the South in his New Year’s address, the two Koreas agreed to form a unified women’s ice hockey team and march together under a unified Korean flag at the Olympics’ opening ceremony on Friday.