Disputed isles to feature on summit chairs, dessert

A chair for the summit featuring a map of the Korean peninsula showing the disputed islands, which are controlled by South Korea but claimed by Japan.
A chair for the summit featuring a map of the Korean peninsula showing the disputed islands, which are controlled by South Korea but claimed by Japan.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

SEOUL • The chairs to be used and the dessert to be served at tomorrow's summit between South Korean President Moon Jae In and the North's leader Kim Jong Un will feature disputed islands controlled by Seoul but claimed by Tokyo.

One thing the rival Koreas share is a resentment of Japan, which imposed brutal colonial rule on the peninsula from 1910 to 1945, and the gesture is likely to irritate Tokyo.

Japan and the South are both US allies but their relationship is strained by historical and territorial issues including Dokdo, islands controlled by Seoul but claimed by Tokyo, which calls them Takeshima.

The custom-made walnut chairs to be used by the two leaders at tomorrow's summit at Panmunjom in the demilitarised zone (DMZ) each feature a map of the peninsula.

The tiny disputed islands are clearly marked, pictures released by the South's presidential Blue House showed yesterday.

Photographs of dishes planned for the summit dinner show a mango mousse for dessert, displaying a stylised map of the peninsula with the islands prominently marked.

Japan has demanded that South Korea rethink the planned dessert. "It is extremely regrettable," said a Japanese Foreign Ministry spokesman yesterday, adding that Japan had lodged a protest. "We have asked that the dessert not be served."

Symbolism abounds in other aspects of the layout, with the delegations meeting in the Peace House around an oval table 2,018mm wide to mark the year. "The oval table reflects the wish to see the North and the South sit down together and hold frank talks without any feeling of distance despite 65 years of division," the Blue House said.

Traditional white porcelain vases will decorate the room, filled with flowers including peonies to symbolise greetings, daisies for peace, and wild blooms from the DMZ.

The two previous inter-Korean summits in 2000 and 2007 both took place in Pyongyang.

It is not the first time Seoul has included the islands in diplomatic processes. When US President Donald Trump visited Seoul last year, his meal included a prawn fished from the waters around Dokdo, sparking protests from Tokyo.

At the opening of the Winter Olympics in February, the two Koreas marched together behind a unification flag that did not show Dokdo, after Tokyo denounced the emblem used at a practice event. Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga called the flag which showed the islands "unacceptable".

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 26, 2018, with the headline 'Disputed isles to feature on summit chairs, dessert'. Print Edition | Subscribe