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Pres. Office Warns Japan Over Claiming Dokdo Islets

Posted July. 14, 2008 08:11,   


The Lee administration yesterday warned Japan not to claim sovereignty over the Dokdo islets, saying, “Based on history, geography and international law, Dokdo is part of Korea’s sovereign territory.”

The latest comment was a response to Japan’s move to claim jurisdiction over the islets in middle school textbooks.

Presidential spokesman Lee Dong-kwan in Seoul told reporters yesterday, “The Dokdo islets are no longer a subject of territorial dispute.”

Kyodo News of Japan said Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda told President Lee Myung-bak of Japan’s intent to claim sovereignty over the islets at the G-8 meeting. But the Korean presidential office categorically denied the report.

“The meeting was unofficial and too short for any serious discourse,” spokesman Lee said. “It was President Lee who first raised the issue and our concern over the move. The Japanese prime minister answered that he fully understands our position.”

Officially, the presidential office maintained a prudent approach, saying it will wait for Japan’s final decision. Still, the Lee administration did not hide its intent to take substantial measures to beef up Korea’s sovereignty over the islets, along with strong protests, if Japan claims Dokdo.

A senior presidential official said, “For now, it is very unlikely for the Japanese government to accept our demand against its planned claim to the island. Should that happen, we have to take strong measures. We are ready to endure sour relations between the two countries.”

The comments indicate that the Lee administration will not budge over the sovereignty debate, and is willing to sacrifice relations with Japan that had been recovering.

The presidential office is taking the matter seriously given that national pride and territorial sovereignty are at stake. A lukewarm reaction to the Japanese move could provoke public outcry in Korea.

President Lee publicly warned Japan July 6 against claiming sovereignty over the islets in an interview with Kyoto News. He also expressed his grave concern to Japanese leader Fukuda Wednesday.

The presidential office held a series of meetings chaired by chief of staff Chung Chung-kil attended by officials from the Foreign and Maritime Affairs Ministry. They reportedly reconfirmed the government’s die-hard approach on the matter.