Japan calls for calm in S. Korea island dispute

The rocky islands have long strained relations between the two neighbours, bringing back memories in South Korea of Japan's 1910-1945 colonial rule over the peninsula.

Japan calls for calm in S. Korea island dispute
Japan called for calm in a territorial row with South Korea on Tuesday, and demonstrators offered flowers at the South Korean embassy in Tokyo while insisting that the disputed islands were Japanese.

Japan's top government spokesman urged calm when asked about domestic media reports that South Korea would consider stationing troops on the desolate islands, known as Dokdo in Korean and Takeshima in Japanese.

A long-standing row over their ownership flared up earlier this month when Japan said it would write about the issue in school teaching guides.

"If military tensions escalate, that would bring no benefit to either Japan or South Korea. So we need to calmly deal with the situation," Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura told a news conference.

South Korea keeps a police presence on the islands, located about halfway between the mainland of both countries.

Some 30 protesters rallied near the South Korean embassy in Tokyo on Tuesday, carrying Japanese flags and banners proclaiming that the islands are Japanese territory. They contrasted their behaviour with that of protesters in Seoul who last week publicly hacked up birds representing Japan.

"We are not here to conduct barbaric acts such as killing live pheasants," one said as the group called on embassy staff to accept flowers and a protest letter. There was no response from the embassy.

South Korean Defence Minister Lee Sang-hee said on Monday that stationing troops on the islands was an option he would not take.

The rocky islands have long strained relations between the two neighbours, bringing back memories in South Korea of Japan's 1910-1945 colonial rule over the peninsula.

Following Japan's decision to write about the islands in its teaching guides, South Korea recalled its ambassador to Japan and rejected Japan's proposal to hold a bilateral foreign ministers' meeting during an Asian forum in Singapore.

Reuters
Last Mod: 22 Temmuz 2008, 12:58
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