Japan says New Jersey's wade into Japan Sea name row "regrettable"

Japan expressed discontent Thursday with a bill introduced in the New Jersey Legislature that would require the state government to refer to the Sea of Japan as the "East Sea," the name preferred by South Korea.

"It's extremely regrettable," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a press conference, repeatedly saying that the Sea of Japan is the only internationally established name for the sea and that the U.S. federal government has formally recognized it.

"We'll take various steps in response through diplomatic channels while seeking a correct understanding of the name of the Sea of Japan in the international community," the top government spokesman said.

The bill follows similar moves in several other states on the U.S. East Coast. It was introduced around the same time lawmakers in New York and Virginia respectively introduced and passed bills that would mandate the sea be called both the Sea of Japan and the East Sea in school textbooks.

Unlike the two others, the New Jersey bill does not require that both names be mentioned.

All five New Jersey lawmakers who sponsored the bill represent a county where more than half of the state's Korean population lives.