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Freak storm Ophelia hits Ireland, fatalities reported

Three people are reported to have died and thousands are without power as ex-hurricane Ophelia moves over Ireland. The storm was downgraded overnight, but authorities have issued a red alert as it made landfall. Authorities in Ireland reported the first fatality on Monday after Tropical Storm Ophelia hit the country with wind speeds reaching 176 kilometers (109 miles) per hour on the southernmost coast. National broadcaster RTE, quoting the local council office, said a woman died in the southeast country of Waterford when a tree fell on her car as a result of the storm. Police confirmed a man had also died in an accident while clearing a fallen tree near the town of Cahir in the south. A second man on the east coast was also killed by a tree falling onto his vehicle, police said. Ophelia made landfall after 0940 UTC, according to the Met Eireann national weather service. Widespread power cuts Met Eirann said the storm was forecast to track directly over Ireland, bringing "violent and destructive gusts." It warned that "heavy rain and storm surges along some coasts will result in flooding. There is a danger to life and property." Some 210,000 homes and businesses have already been left without power. Schools and universities have shut, and airports in Dublin and Cork have cancelled many flights. The Irish prime minister or Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, urged people to stay indoors and to check on their neighbors and elderly relatives. "It is coming your way and this is a national red alert. Even after the storm has passed there will still be dangers. There will be trees on the ground and power lines down," he said. Unprecedented storm Before being downgraded to a storm ahead of landfall in Ireland, Ophelia was the largest hurricane ever recorded so far east in the Atlantic Ocean and the furthest north since 1939. The storm came exactly 30 years after the Great Storm hit southern England on October 16, 1987, leaving 18 people dead and causing widespread damage. The eye of Ophelia is forecast to move across Northern Ireland and then Scotland. Although it will weaken during its progress, gusts of up to 129 kilometers per hour are still expected in the UK. Other parts of Europe have also been affected by Ophelia, which has indirectly caused unseasonably warm weather in some regions, including Germany. Wind gusts spawned by Hurricane Ophelia have also whipped wildfires in Portugual and Spain, killing dozens of people.

Three people are reported to have died and thousands are without power as ex-hurricane Ophelia moves over Ireland. The storm was downgraded overnight, but authorities have issued a red alert as it made landfall. Authorities in Ireland reported the first fatality on Monday after Tropical Storm Ophelia hit the country with wind speeds reaching 176 kilometers (109 miles) per hour ... Read More »

Richard Thaler wins 2017 Nobel economics prize

Richard Thaler has won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences, rounding off this year's Nobel awards. Although not one of Alfred Nobel's original awards, it is widely seen as equal in honor. The 2017 Nobel Prize in economics has been awarded to Richard H. Thaler, an American academic at the University of Chicago known for his work in behavioral economics. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced the award on Monday morning, saying that 72-year-old Thaler had won the prize for his pioneering work at the interface between economics and human psychology. "His empirical findings and theoretical insights have been instrumental in creating the new and rapidly expanding field of behavioural economics, which has had a profound impact on many areas of economic research and policy," it said in a statement. Read more: The Nobel Prizes - what you need to know The prize, formally known as the Severiges Riksbank (Bank of Sweden) Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel, is not one of the original prizes mentioned in the will of Nobel (1833-96), the Swedish inventor of dynamite who instigated a series of awards in medicine, physics, chemistry, literature and peace. Instead, the economics prize — worth 9 million kronor (€945,300, $1.1 million) like the other Nobel awards — was founded by the Bank of Sweden on its tercentenary in 1968 and first awarded in 1969. Behavioral economics pioneer Thaler is seen as being at the vanguard of the field of behavioral economics, a once fringe field of research which has developed into a major component of modern economics studies. "Richard H. Thaler has incorporated psychologically realistic assumptions into analyses of economic decision-making," the official dedication declared. "By exploring the consequences of limited rationality, social preferences, and lack of self-control, he has shown how these human traits systematically affect individual decisions as well as market outcomes." A native of New Jersey, Thaler is a career economist currently serving as the Ralph and Dorothy Keller Distinguished Service Professor of Behavioral Science and Economics at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. He made a brief cameo in 2015 film The Big Short, which dealt with the factors that led to the 2007-2008 financial crisis. Contested validity The prize is seen by many as a high watermark of achievement in economic research, but some critics have contested its validity, maintaining that it honors a science undeserving of the name. Even one well-known recipient of the prize, Friedrich Hayek, has voiced reservations, saying that the award could risk giving a handful of economists a dangerous amount of influence. However, it is broadly considered as being equal to the other Nobel awards, and its winner also attends the presentation ceremony. Only one woman, Elinor Ostrom of the United States, has won the economics prize to date. Last year, it went to British-born economist Oliver Hart and Finnish economist Bengt Holmstrom for their work on contracts. The Nobel awards are scheduled to be presented in Stockholm, Sweden on October 10, the anniversary of Nobel's death.

Richard Thaler has won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences, rounding off this year’s Nobel awards. Although not one of Alfred Nobel’s original awards, it is widely seen as equal in honor. The 2017 Nobel Prize in economics has been awarded to Richard H. Thaler, an American academic at the University of Chicago known for his work in behavioral ... Read More »

America’s Amish refugee town faces fresh challenges

As the US isolates itself under President Donald Trump, one rural town in Pennsylvania keeps rooting for refugees: The Amish and Mennonite communities of Lancaster County say "refugees welcome." Sertan Sanderson reports. Quilts, pies and buggies: The Amish remain the main attraction in rural Pennsylvania, some 80 miles (130 kilometers) east of Philadelphia. But the Amish and their neighbors have quietly made Lancaster County, with about half a million residents, into a home for refugees, dubbed by some "America's refugee capital." Since 2013, the rural community has taken in more than 1,300 refugees; put in perspective, that's almost the same number of refugee arrivals as in Orange County, California, (population 3.2 million) which bridges Los Angeles and San Diego. Read more: Immigrants strive for US passports out of fear of future Lancaster Mayor Rick Gray explains that welcoming refugees by supporting religious freedom and tolerance "is in our genes": "Pennsylvania was established on the principle of religious freedom. Add to that the religious dimension of Lancaster with the Amish tradition, and you get one of the most tolerant places in the country. Yes, we are welcoming people that look different. But they don't look any more different from the norm than an Amishman does." Refugees welcome Stephanie Gromek, who works for Church World Service, one of nine refugee resettlement agencies in the US, says that in the past year alone, the organization has resettled almost 700 refugees here. The Amish "worked so hard to keep their culture, and that's what we hope for with our refugees," she says. The community was founded for the Amish and Mennonites in the 1800s as a place where they could practice their religion. "They were fleeing persecution at the time, and now these refugees from around the world are fleeing persecution as well, and that's the correlation that allows Lancastrians to be so welcoming to strangers," Gromek says. Read more: Immigrants illegally in US grasp sanctuary city limits Gromek deals with cases from around the world in her work and says that in recent times there has been an influx of people from Syria, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Captain Emmanuel came to Pennsylvania from the DRC after spending 18 years in refugee camps. He says he feels blessed to be here. "It was a long process for me to get here, but I'm happy to be here. I feel part of the community wherever I go. I've made friends from Syria, Pakistan, Somalia, Cuba here. We are all brothers." Learning from Amish ancestors Captain Emmanuel was sponsored through Grace and Truth Church in Lancaster, a nondenominational community that arose from the Amish tradition. Pastor David Beiler, who leads the congregation, says thatvarious denominations in town gather around the refugee cause, working closely with agencies like CWS. "The whole city is coming together behind the refugees in welcoming them, regardless of faith. But the Amish are a big part of it." Beiler helped Emmanuel get his driver's license, practicing driving with him on the roads of Lancaster. Beiler also played a role in Emmanuel finding his home in Lancaster, an apartment the refugee and his family rent from an Amish man. Although they tend to keep to the background of local affairs, the Amish own numerous properties in the center of Lancaster. Over many decades, the religious group gradually moved to the outskirts of town, as the community became increasingly gentrified, but the Amish continue to define much of the spirit and identity of Lancaster. "Most members of the Amish community lead very rural lives here, ploughing the field with the horse and all that. But we also have Amish who are involved in the city of Lancaster, who come into the city as landlords of refugees — sometimes on their buggies — since they own a lot of the houses here," Gromek explains. "They're not political people but they make it known that they are supportive of the work that we do." A 'thriving city' for all The refugees have been a boon to Lancaster, too. Rhoda Charles of the Habecker Mennonite Church says they have singlehandedly reinvigorated the community. Rhoda's husband Jonathon, a local photographer, agrees: "We try to use every opportunity we can to show to the world that the immigrant refugee people have given us far more than they have taken. They are the lifeblood of the community." While the Mennonite Church originates in the Amish faith, it has far fewer stringent rules applied to everyday life and is more open to integrating those who aren't born into the faith. Over the past nine years, Habecker Mennonite Church has sponsored several Karen refugees from Myanmar who had been living in camps in Thailand. One of them is Sah Klu, who is emphatic about not missing her homeland anymore. "I feel like this is my home now. Our church friends are now like our family too. I never saw anyone nice like this when we were living in the camps." Winds of change But changes in US policy doesn't bode well for the countryside community. President Trump's push to put limits on the number of refugees admitted into the US will likely leave its mark on Lancaster, says Jonathan Charles. "This current president is not a person we are very fond of. We haven't had any new arrivals since [Trump] became president. And it will take a few years to see how much it impacts us. But I'm sure that it will." Fewer than half as many refugee resettlements are expected this year as compared to last year, says Stephanie Gromek. Still, she remains optimistic: "If we don't get any refugee arrivals, our organization doesn't get funding. However, the reasons for what the administration is trying to do are not holding. There's no weight, no justification for what Trump is trying to do." Mayor Gray, however, is worried there might be more at stake and is paying attention to what the migrant community has to say about the political developments in the US. "Some refugees I spoke to are now afraid of what's going on a national level. They say they've seen this kind of thing happening before in their own countries. "I really hope they're wrong."

As the US isolates itself under President Donald Trump, one rural town in Pennsylvania keeps rooting for refugees: The Amish and Mennonite communities of Lancaster County say “refugees welcome.” Sertan Sanderson reports. Quilts, pies and buggies: The Amish remain the main attraction in rural Pennsylvania, some 80 miles (130 kilometers) east of Philadelphia. But the Amish and their neighbors have ... Read More »

Turkish inflation again accelerates in September

The annual inflation rate in Turkey rose for the second month in a row and is now over 11 percent, well above the government's 5-percent target. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan blames high interest rates. Turkey's annualized inflation rate rose to 11.2 percent in September, the state-run statistics agency Turkstat reported on Tuesday, with the costs of education and transportation seeing the biggest monthly gains. The overall increase was slightly below market expectations, but shows a return to higher costs, after a period earlier this year in which the inflation rate dipped into single digits. However, there was a significant increase in core inflation, which hit its highest levels since February 2004, according to QNB-Finansbank. "What is even more concerning is that the upward trend will likely extend to the upcoming months," according to a note from the bank, which said inflation may hit 11.5 percent by the end of the year. Turkey has seen strong economic expansion this year, in part due to rising exports, fiscal stimulus and credit growth, which has also led to consumer-side demand increases, putting pressure on inflation. Passing the blame Despite growth in exports, the trade deficit has also continued to widen. The Turkish lira is again under pressure compared to the dollar and the euro. Last month, the central bank raised its inflation forecast for the end of the year to 9.72 percent and kept interest rates on hold. But Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is having none of it and is in a belligerent mood. On Tuesday he said that the country has not been able to lower inflation because of high interest rates which were at levels that discouraged investment; once again reiterating his unorthodox view of the link between interest rates and inflation. Conventional economic wisdom suggests that inflation should go down as interest rates are raised since this softens demand and weakens the money supply growth in an economy, and many central banks have used this policy tool in the past. "We still have not been able lower inflation and this is due to interest rates," He said in a speech to deputies from his ruling AK Party after Turkstat's data was released. "If we cannot secure the fall in interest rates, if we cannot succeed here, then beware — plenty of calamities await us. We must definitely deal with this," he added.

The annual inflation rate in Turkey rose for the second month in a row and is now over 11 percent, well above the government’s 5-percent target. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan blames high interest rates. Turkey’s annualized inflation rate rose to 11.2 percent in September, the state-run statistics agency Turkstat reported on Tuesday, with the costs of education and transportation seeing ... Read More »

Australian military tolerated child sex abuse, inquiry finds

Senior military staff tolerated initiation rites - including physical and sexual abuse - among junior recruits, a royal commission inquiry has said. Those who reported abuse were told it was a "rite of passage." The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse on Tuesday published its findings that Australia's military had enabled sexual abuse of teens for decades. The inquiry investigated reports of abuse that took place at two former Australian military training bases in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s. Survivors who testified said they were 15 or 16 years old at the navy and army bases when the abuse took place. Teens were subjected to practices that included a junior recruit being held down while boot polish was forcibly smeared on his genital or anal area. Read more: German soldiers sue over dismissal for 'sadistic sexual' practices and hazing Others testified that they were forced to perform sexual acts on other recruits or senior staff members. Junior navy recruits testified that "they made, or attempted to make, reports about incidents of abuse to staff and that they were not believed." Senior staff also told them that the abuse was "a rite of passage" or they did not take any action on the reports. Sexual grooming of cadets The Australian Defense Force's (ADF) cadet program, which admits children as young as 13, was also investigated. A total of 154 incidents of abuse were recorded at the cadet program since 2001, the report said. Read more: Female Bundeswehr soldiers abused and forced to pole-dance The ADF cadet training manuals falsely stated that the age of consent was 14, the report said. They noted that it is actually over 16 in Australia, depending on the jurisdiction. The false information increased the risk of child sex abuse, the inquiry found. Survivor testimony also showed that both boy and girl cadets were groomed by much older instructors and sexually abused. The Royal Commission on child sexual abuse has held hearings for more than three years into abuse at churches, schools and government agencies. The commission is expected to deliver its final list of recommendations to the government in December.

Senior military staff tolerated initiation rites – including physical and sexual abuse – among junior recruits, a royal commission inquiry has said. Those who reported abuse were told it was a “rite of passage.” The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse on Tuesday published its findings that Australia’s military had enabled sexual abuse of teens for decades. ... Read More »

US-South Korea military drills – an unnecessary provocation?

Amid serious tensions on the Korean Peninsula, the US and South Korea have begun their joint military exercises. For Pyongyang, the drills are a prelude to invading North Korea. Fabian Kretschmer reports from Seoul. On Monday, South Korea and the US began their much-anticipated joint military exercises. The maneuvers, named theUlchi Freedom Guardian, largely consist of computer simulations inside a bunker facility located south of Seoul. According to the South Korean newspaper Joongang Ilbo, the following scenario, among others, is being tested during the exercise: In a potential military operation, how to carry out a preventive strike against the North Korean leadership. As expected, Pyongyang responded harshly to the drills. The Sunday edition of the Rodong Sinmun newspaper said the US-South Korea military exercises were a step towards nuclear war, and that they were similar to pouring "gasoline on fire." For the regime led by Kim Jong Un, the "defense exercises" are a preparation for invasion. History tells us that North Korea reacts harshly to US-South Korean exercises. Last year in August, after joint maneuvers, the North Korean military launched a missile from a submarine. A little later, the communist country conducted its fifth nuclear test. - Eyeing North Korea, US and Japan to boost military ties - Where did North Korea get its missile technology? Tense times The 11-day Ulchi Freedom Guardian drill involves 50,000 South Korean and 17,500 US troops. The question remains whether the US will deploy long-range nuclear bombers or atomic submarines to the Korean Peninsula during the drills. The military exercises always take place at the end of August, therefore they could be seen as a routine affair. But this time around the situation on the Korean Peninsula is extremely tense. In July, North Korea successfully tested an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), after which US President Donald Trump threatened the North with dire consequences. Kim's threat to attack the US Pacific island of Guam further escalated the situation. But Daniel Pinkston, a military expert who teaches at Troy University in Seoul, says the US-South Korea drills will not push the region to a war. On the contrary, Pinkston believes the more prepared US and South Korean troops are the lower will be the threat from North Korea. "Most US troops in South Korea are stationed for only one year. It requires regular exercises to study the communication processes," he told DW. De-escalation calls In recent times, however, calls have been growing for the US and South Korea to suspend their military drills. In exchange for their suspension, China has suggested that North Korea should freeze its nuclear program. Pyongyang has already indicated its willingness to implement such a deal. Read: What is China's role in the North Korean crisis? Even a high-ranking US official has for the first time expressed views in favor of at least reducing the scale and scope of the military drills. According to Edward Markey, a Democrat Senator from Massachusetts, it was President Trump who provoked North Korea through his aggressive rhetoric. Now Trump should refrain from using war rhetoric while US troops conduct exercises with their South Korean counterparts, Markey added. German-Korean filmmaker, Cho Sung-hyun, also points to what she considers a double standard. "If the US engages in drills simulating an invasion of North Korea, it is not considered a provocation, but if North Korea reacts with missile tests and verbal attacks, it is deemed a threat to the whole world," Cho told DW.

Amid serious tensions on the Korean Peninsula, the US and South Korea have begun their joint military exercises. For Pyongyang, the drills are a prelude to invading North Korea. Fabian Kretschmer reports from Seoul. On Monday, South Korea and the US began their much-anticipated joint military exercises. The maneuvers, named theUlchi Freedom Guardian, largely consist of computer simulations inside a ... Read More »

Grace Mugabe faces assault charge in South Africa

The first lady of Zimbabwe is accused of assaulting a young model with an electrical cable. South African police say they don't know where she is but are negotiating with her lawyers. Grace Mugabe, the wife of Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe, was close to being arrested in South Africa, police announced on Tuesday. Police said they were negotiating with the 52-year-old's legal team to get her to hand herself in over assault allegations. Police allege she assaulted 20-year-old model Gabriella Engels in a Johannesburg hotel at the weekend. She allegedly beat the model with an electrical extension cord leaving the woman with injuries to her head. Local media said Engels had been visiting the Mugabes' sons Robert and Chatunga at the hotel in the exclusive Sandton district. Mugabe allegedly arrived with bodyguards and accused Engels of partying with the pair. "We were chilling in a hotel room, and (the sons) were in the room next door. She came in and started hitting us," Engels said. The model posted an image of the alleged assault on Twitter. "The negotiations for her to hand herself in are still going on. We are at a point where we cannot effect an arrest yet," a senior police source told news agency Reuters. South African police minister Fikile Mbalula had earlier said that Mugabe had handed herself in to police and would appear in court. Read more: Mugabe's wife Grace says Zimbabwe president should name successor The police national spokesman told news agency AFP that the whereabouts of the first lady was unknown. The alleged assault has caused a diplomatic row between the two neighboring countries. The first lady has become increasingly active in Zimbabwe's public life and in 2014 became the head of the ruling party's women's wing. Read more: Mugabe celebrates 93rd birthday, praises Trump She regularly attends political rallies across the country, railing against anyone alleged to be disloyal to the president.

The first lady of Zimbabwe is accused of assaulting a young model with an electrical cable. South African police say they don’t know where she is but are negotiating with her lawyers. Grace Mugabe, the wife of Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe, was close to being arrested in South Africa, police announced on Tuesday. Police said they were negotiating with the ... Read More »

Madeira: Tree fall kills festival worshippers in Portugal

Local media have reported up to 10 fatalities after a tree disrupted religious rituals in the autonomous island. The Festival of Nossa Senhora do Monte is considered one of the largest, drawing thousands of visitors. Several people were crushed by a falling tree on the Portuguese island of Madeira during religious festivities, local media reported on Tuesday. RTP public television showed images of emergency workers rushing to the scene of the tragic incident near the city of Fonchal. Read more: Lisbon - The heart of Portugal It is unclear how people have been killed by the fallen tree due to disparities between reports. SIC television reported two fatalities, while TSF radio said there had only been two deaths. At least 35 people were injured, local media reported. Portuguese tradition The incident occurred during the Festival of Nossa Senhora do Monte, considered one of the most famous of the island's religious gatherings. The event draws thousands of visitors from across Portugal and the world. Nearly every village in the country has its own religious festival or pilgrimage, making it home to hundreds of such gatherings, many of which celebrate harvests and local saints.

Local media have reported up to 10 fatalities after a tree disrupted religious rituals in the autonomous island. The Festival of Nossa Senhora do Monte is considered one of the largest, drawing thousands of visitors. Several people were crushed by a falling tree on the Portuguese island of Madeira during religious festivities, local media reported on Tuesday. RTP public television ... Read More »

Hundreds feared dead in Sierra Leone mudslide

Hundreds of people are believed to have died after a mudslide flattened dozens of houses on the outskirts of Freetown. Sierra Leone's official coroner has said more than 200 bodies have already brought into the morgue. Sierra Leone Vice President Victor Foh said it was "likely that hundreds are lying dead underneath the rubble" after a mudslide and heavy flooding hit a mountain town on the outskirts of the capital, Freetown, on Monday. "The disaster is so serious that I myself feel broken," he added. "We're trying to cordon (off) the area (and) evacuate the people." Read more: Sierra Leone after Ebola Sierra Leone national television interrupted its regular programming to broadcast images of people digging through the mud, desperate to retrieve the bodies of loved ones. Pictures also showed people carrying their victims' remains in rice sacks to the local morgue. Officials said that military forces would be deployed to help in the rescue efforts in the densely populated area, where at least 100 building are thought to have collapsed. Pictures posted by local residents on Twitter showed streets in the capital transformed into churning rivers and locals waist deep in the muddy waters. The country's deputy information officer said it was still trying to compile exact number of casualties. However, a coroner's official told the Associated Press news agency that more than 200 bodies had already been recovered. The city of Freetown had been battered by severe storms and flooding throughout the day. The country often finds itself engulfed by severe floods over the rainy season, while unsafe housing with poor drainage systems have seen scores of people killed and led to high rates of homelessness. Foh indicated that the engulfed area had seen a number of illegal buildings recently erected. Sierra Leone was one of the worst affected countries in western Africa by the Ebola virus outbreak in 2014, which left more than 4,000 people dead. Its economy has struggled to recover since the outbreak, with around 60 percent of people still living below the national poverty line, according to the United Nations Development Program.

Hundreds of people are believed to have died after a mudslide flattened dozens of houses on the outskirts of Freetown. Sierra Leone’s official coroner has said more than 200 bodies have already brought into the morgue. Sierra Leone Vice President Victor Foh said it was “likely that hundreds are lying dead underneath the rubble” after a mudslide and heavy flooding ... Read More »

156-year-old map may reignite Japan-South Korea island dispute

South Korea occupies the rocky and remote islands of Dokdo, but Japan calls them Takeshima and claims they are an integral part of its territory. And as neither side is backing down, relations continue to deteriorate. The discovery of a map drawn in 1861 may reignite a simmering territorial row between South Korea and Japan, and further damage bilateral relations that are already strained. The map was drawn by Korean cartographer and geologist Kim Jeong-ho and clearly marks the rocky islets that are known in South Korea today as Dokdo as being part of the kingdom of Korea. The map covers the Korean Peninsula and has Dokdo close to the island of Ulleung, off the east coast. Japan, however, has long disputed South Korean control over the inhospitable islands and insists they are an integral part of the Japanese archipelago. Tokyo says the islands should be known as Takeshima. Ironically, the map was in the collection of a Japanese national and had previously been in a library in Pyongyang. Serial numbers on the map show the date that it was obtained - August 30, 1932, when Japan was the colonial master of the peninsula - but little is known about its whereabouts in the intervening years. Hailed as more proof The discovery has been reported in South Korean media and hailed as yet another piece of evidence that Dokdo - which have a detachment of armed police permanently stationed on them - are sovereign Korean territory. "All Koreans know that the islands are Korean and we are committed to protecting them," said Song Young-chae, a professor in the Center for Global Creation and Collaboration at Seoul's Sangmyung University. "There have been songs written about Dokdo and they have appeared on postage stamps, so they are constantly in our minds as being Korean," he told DW. "The Japanese claims to the islands have no basis in historic fact and we find it stunning that they continue to claim the islands as theirs," he added. According to Seoul's position on Dokdo, they only came under the control of Tokyo when Imperial Japan invaded the Korean Peninsula in 1910. The islands were then ceded to Shimane Prefecture, the closest part of mainland Japan, until Japan was defeated in World War II and surrendered in August 1945. The fine print of the San Francisco Peace Treaty of 1951 now becomes important in the dispute. South Korea says that early drafts of the agreement included Dokdo among the thousands of islands and parcels of territory that had been seized by Japan and were to be returned to their historic owners across Asia. By the sixth draft of the agreement, however, all the place names had become so cumbersome that for the sake of convenience only three major Korean islands were identified by name. And Seoul believes if the islands were being returned to their historic owners, then they are clearly Korean. Seeking settlement Supporting South Korea's claims are ancient descriptions of the islands being part of the Silla Dynasty in 512 AD as well as maps and documents - Korean, Japanese and those made by Western explorers - amassed by the Seoul-based Northeast Asian History Foundation. Arguably the most persuasive piece of evidence is a map produced as late as 1877 by Japan's Department of the Interior and which is held at the National Archives in Tokyo. The document shows that in a reply to a letter from the department to Japan's Great Council of State in March of that year, the council made it clear that Japan had no relationship with Dokdo. But in Tokyo, the government now brushes aside Seoul's claims and insists that the islands are an inherent part of Japanese territory, based entirely on historical facts and international law. An extensive section on the website of the Japanese foreign ministry states, "The Republic of Korea has been occupying Takeshima with no basis in international law. Any measures the Republic of Korea takes regarding Takeshima based on such illegal occupation have no legal justification. "Japan will continue to seek the settlement of the dispute over territorial sovereignty over Takeshima on the basis of international law in a calm and peaceful manner," it adds. To support its claim, Japan has proposed that the dispute be taken to the International Court of Justice in The Hague and that both sides be given the chance to stake their claims to the islands. Seoul has so far refused. Demands that South Korea return the islands to Japanese control are most vociferous in Shimane Prefecture, which is 211 kilometers to the south. Takeshima Day On February 22 every year, the prefecture marks Takeshima Day with a series of events that invariably attract nationalist politicians from Tokyo and, equally inevitably, attract criticism from South Korea. Hiromichi Moteki, acting chairman of the rightwing Society for the Dissemination of Historical Fact, says the growing animosity toward Japan demonstrated by the administration of South Korean President Moon Jae-in is "not a normal human attitude." "I am not an expert on maps and I believe that careful analysis needs to be carried out to determine the accuracy of this newly discovered map," he said, but added that there has been a concerted campaign against Japan by the South Korean leadership that threatens to further harm the bilateral relationship. One of the biggest areas of contention is the agreement signed in 2015 by the leaders of Japan that was designed to draw a final line under the issue of "comfort women," the women in occupied countries forced to work in brothels for Japanese troops. Since his election in May, Moon has overseen the creation of a panel to look into scrapping the agreement. "I would say that at present, this is the worst two-way relationship between Japan and South Korea that I have ever experienced," said Moteki. "And this map could make things even worse. I hope things will improve, but I fear that they will only get worse."

South Korea occupies the rocky and remote islands of Dokdo, but Japan calls them Takeshima and claims they are an integral part of its territory. And as neither side is backing down, relations continue to deteriorate. The discovery of a map drawn in 1861 may reignite a simmering territorial row between South Korea and Japan, and further damage bilateral relations ... Read More »

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