World Bulletin / News Desk
Japan recalled its ambassador to South Korea on Friday after South Korean President Lee Myung-bak visited disputed islands believed to contain frozen natural gas deposits potentially worth billions of dollars.
Lee is the first South Korean leader to make the trip to the islands that have been a persistent irritant in relations between the two countries even after they moved on from Japan's colonial occupation to develop flourishing commercial ties.
The two sides have also worked together to try to rein in North Korea's nuclear weapons programme.
Japan issued a terse warning over the islands, known as Takeshima in Japanese and Dokdo in Korean, which lie equidistant from the two mainlands, and summoned South Korea's ambassador toTokyo to formally lodge a complaint.
Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba also said Tokyo had recalled its envoy to Seoul.
"The visit to Takeshima by President Lee is unacceptable in light of Japan's stance on this issue," Gemba was quoted as saying by Yonhap news agency.
Officials in South Korea said the visit was meant to highlight the islands' importance as a natural reserve and was not aimed at stirring up trouble.
"There shouldn't be anything unusual in a national leader visiting a place that is our territory," an official said.
Lee travelled to a larger island called Ulleungdo off the Korean peninsula's east coast, which is notdisputed, and made the final leg under tight security with military and coast guard escort.
Lee's stop on the islands was largely overlooked in South Korea, where he is in the final year of a mandatory single five-year term mired in corruption scandals involving former close aides and family members.
Communist Party of China decides deputy, regarded as key ally of president, to replace Lu Wei
Exiled Communist Party leader says government, rebels, to accelerate negotiations
Of 15 safety inspectors underground during accident, 8 managed to escape but 2 remain missing
Police say insurgents suspected in latest fatal attack to hit troubled region
UN says progress slow on Sri Lanka's post-war reconciliation
Over 3,800 turn themselves in to police in southern Mindanao alone ahead of President-elect Rodrigo Duterte’s inauguration
North Korea responds aggressively to 'military provocation,' as major parliamentary gathering gets underway in Pyongyang
55 Cambodia National Rescue Party lawmakers boycotting assembly since police failed attempt to arrest their deputy leader
7 Indonesians among 13 crew travelling on tugboat when attacked by Filipino gunmen last week
PM Abe’s gov’t discusses how to lessen UK referendum’s fallout on Japanese economy as Tokyo prepares for July 10 polls
Junta leader insists won’t follow example of UK’s Cameron by resigning if Thais reject draft charter in Aug. 7 referendum
- Police believe suspects behind Sunday’s car bombing in Muslim south were involved in blast at mall car park last year
Second finance minister resigns for ‘personal reasons’ as PM announces 3rd cabinet reshuffle since 2013 election
Activist calls for transparency over why officials were transferred in province notorious for refugee rights abuses, graft
SKorean leader addresses concerns on internal division as government highlights importance of firm handling with North Korea
The southern area of Thailand is plagued by insurgency, although the shooting not thought to be related to the insurgency