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.
Predecessor resigned 18 months before tenure due to expire amid probe into links between PM, debt-ridden state wealth fund
Defends Facebook post for which he was convicted and ordered to pay $40,000 in fines and compensation
Gov't meets leaders of 2 of country's most powerful rebel groups, who had previously refused to participate in peace talks
President Rodrigo Duterte threatened ceasefire withdrawal with communists after rebels involved in death of gov’t employee
Jin Kyung-joon, a vice ministerial-level official, is the first high levelprosecutor arrested while in office
Official says executions of 10 other drug smugglers to be held at later stage, without providing details
Sherbakov was also ordered by the court to pay $23,000 in compensation to the woman's family over the November 2015 killing.
National Security Council Act necessary, says Najib Razak, and other countries have since followed Malaysia's lead
China and Russia will hold "routine" naval drills in the South China Sea in September
Boy shot during riots caused by allegations that Hindu man burned copy of Quran
Secretary of state says Hague decison on disputes of ownership legally binding ; expects compliance
Report says families of missing people still lack closure, years after end of civil war in 2009
South Korean military reveals recent discovery of North Korean leaflets in Han River
China slams statement released by allies urging sides abide by Hague court’s South China Sea ruling in favor of Manila
Attorney general does not deny executions may be held at end of week as security tightened around notorious prison island
Irom Sharmila brings protest to end to enter politics, continue fight against human rights abuses