State Sticks with ‘Sea of Japan’ in Response to Online Petitions

More than 100,000 Signed the We the People Petition.

The State Department engaged in a little online diplomacy Friday when it responded to one of the most popular petitions to climb the White House’s We the People citizen petition site since its launch.

The petition, signed by more than 100,000 people -- many of them South Koreans and Korean Americans -- urged the U.S. government to stop referring to the waterway between Korea and Japan as the Sea of Japan and to use the Korean designation East Sea instead. Nearly 30,000 people -- many of them Japanese and Japanese Americans -- signed a counter-petition urging U.S. officials to continue using the Sea of Japan name.

The waterway’s name is a touchy subject between the two nations dating from Japan’s colonial domination of Korea during the early 20th century.

The U.S. is sticking with Sea of Japan but the nations shouldn’t read that as taking sides, Kurt Campbell, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, said in the administration response.

“We understand that this naming issue is an important and sensitive one for both the Republic of Korea and Japan,” he said. “I assure you the United States remains committed to our deep and indispensable alliances with the Republic of Korea and Japan, relationships based on shared values and mutual trust.”

The response was translated into Japanese and Korean.

Government officials have responded to more than 75 citizen petitions through the We the People platform since it was launched in September 2011.

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