Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Mr. Gallegos Speaks Out on the Liancourt Rocks

The following is an excerpt from the July 28 U.S. State Department press briefing by Gonzalo R. Gallegos, Acting Deputy Spokesman:

QUESTION: My question is about Liancourt Rocks. Last week, the Board on Geographic Names changed the name of the country that Liancourt Rocks belonged to - from South Korea or oceans to undesignated sovereignty. Did the State Department give any guidelines to the BGN when they made that decision, like as the State Department did in 1977 when the BGN changed the name of the island from Dokdo, the Korean name, to Liancourt Rocks?

MR. GALLEGOS: I appreciate the question. Somebody posed it at the gaggle this morning, and I have more thorough guidance for you today. And I think it's going to be best if I read through it, because it states clearly that the U.S. position for decades has been to not take a position regarding the sovereignty of the islands in question. As we've said in the past, the question of the sovereignty of these islets is for Japan and Korea to resolve peacefully between themselves. We do not take a position on Korea's claim or Japan's claim to the islands. It's a long-standing dispute, which the two sides have handled with restraint in the past, and we expect that they will continue to do so. We'd welcome any outcome agreed to by both Korea and Japan.

In terms of the name the classification, which you asked about specifically, U.S. position - our position has for decades, and I repeat, been not to take a position regarding the sovereignty, and to use the name Liancourt Rocks to refer to the islands. The placement of Liancourt Rocks under the Board of Geographic Names file designation of undesignated sovereignty has no bearing on the USG's position, which has not changed. The refiling was done to be in conformity with U.S. Government efforts to standardize the filing of all features to which we do not recognize claims of sovereignty. The change to the website does not represent a change in U.S. policy, but rather an action to ensure consistency with that policy.

QUESTION: Did the State Department - was the State Department aware that the BGN would change the classification from South Korea or oceans to undesignated sovereignty?

MR. GALLEGOS: Well, renewed interest in this issue has prompted U.S. Government entities to independently check to make sure that their internal filing and designations regarding these islets are consistent with our policy, so –


QUESTION: Just to qualify that, was there any communication with either Japanese or South Korean Governments before the change?

MR. GALLEGOS: I couldn't tell you.

And who wants to know?

ADD: I have been informed that the reporter who popped the question at the morning gaggle (that is the official name of the event, the likely equivalent of the Japanese burasagari) was a Korean.

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