Dessert of discord: Japan furious over Korea summit mousse featuring disputed isles

Dessert of discord: Japan furious over Korea summit mousse featuring disputed isles
An edible Korean Peninsula map that Seoul will serve up during this week’s talks with Pyongyang does not sit well with Tokyo, after it spotted the silhouettes of disputed islets on the elaborate dessert course.

The dessert menu for the upcoming talks between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and his North Korean counterpart Kim Jong-un features mango mousse with a white chocolate plaque featuring the Koreas painted as one country in blue. Also included are the disputed islets in the Sea of Japan, known as Dokdo in Korea and as Takeshima in Japan.

The mousse, meant to be a symbol of unification and dialogue, has now infuriated Tokyo, which has territorial claims over the isles currently administered by South Korea. The Japanese Foreign Ministry called the move “extremely regrettable,” urging Seoul not to serve the mousse. 

“We cannot accept it from our national standpoint,” Kenji Kanasugi, a top Foreign Ministry official, said of the Korean dessert, as cited by Asahi newspaper. Tokyo previously voiced its unease over the use of a flag with a similar design during the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics. 

“The depiction of Takeshima also became an issue during the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, but a summit is on a different order from the Olympics,” the official argued.

The inter-Korean summit will take place in the ‘truce village’ of Panmunjom in the demilitarized zone (DMZ) 53km north of Seoul. The date and venue of the talks was agreed at a groundbreaking meeting between the two neighbors on March 29.

The meeting of such level will be just the third for the two nations divided after the Korean War. Two previous meetings, both of which had pressing economic and political issues on the agenda, took place in 2000 and 2007.

North Korea’s nuclear program is set to be the major theme to be discussed by Moon and Kim. Denuclearization aside, South Korea’s President is also expected to raise the issue of Japanese citizens who were abducted decades ago by North Korea and were never allowed to return.

The North-South summit at Panmunjom may be followed by another historic meeting between Kim and US President Donald Trump, planned for May or June. Trump signaled the North Koreans are keen to engage in direct talks, claiming Pyongyang agreed to halt nuclear tests before and during the meeting.

North Korea has been repeatedly hit with UN sanctions targeting Pyongyang’s missile and nuclear programs. Russia and China, which also backed the UN resolutions, have been calling for a diplomatic solution to the crisis. The Sino-Russian proposal, otherwise known as the “double freeze” initiative, seeks a simultaneous suspension of both the nuclear tests by North Korea and the large-scale US-South Korea military drills.

The two Koreas remain formally at war as the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice agreement, but not a full-fledged peace treaty.

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