The provocation was a news release from the 7th Fleet about the carrier U.S.S. Nimitz participating in a joint exercise earlier this week, the U.S. military newspaper Stars and Stripes reported Thursday. The release was rewritten to describe the exercises as taking place in "international waters east of Korea."
For South Korea, the name Sea of Japan is a reminder of the period from 1910 to 1945 when Japan occupied the Korean Peninsula. But it is also the designation chosen by the U.S. Board of Geographic Names, and military policy calls for its use.
Japan argues the sea has been called Sea of Japan for centuries.
"We wish that the U.S. used only 'the East Sea.' But, if that's too hard to do, we want the U.S. to at least use both names," a South Korean government spokeswoman said during a similar flap last year. "We've asked ... them about it frequently, and whenever the subject comes up, the problem is still not fixed."