South Korea challenges Japan's claim over disputed islets

South Korea and Japan are clashing over disputed islets located between the two countries. File Photo by Yonhap


May 19 (UPI) -- South Korea protested Japanese claims to the disputed islets of Dokdo on Tuesday, after summoning a senior Japanese diplomat to the foreign ministry.

Kim Jung-han, director of Asia and Pacific affairs at South Korea's foreign ministry, expressed profound regret during a meeting with Hirohisa Soma, a Seoul-based Japanese diplomat, South Korean news service Newsis reported.

"We strongly protest the redundant and unlawful claims of sovereignty in a diplomatic bluebook of the Japanese government over Dokdo, which is historically, geographically and lawfully [South Korean] territory," said South Korean foreign ministry spokesman Kim In-chul in statement.

Seoul also requested an immediate retraction and said the Japanese government claims do not impact South Korean sovereignty over the disputed islets.

Seoul's move to file an official protest with Tokyo comes after the Japanese government had stated in its 2020 Blue Book Dokdo is Japan's "inherent territory historically and by international law," according to Yonhap.

Tokyo had also claimed South Korea was "illegally occupying" the islets in the East Sea, also known as the Sea of Japan.

In its diplomatic Blue Book, Tokyo also said the two countries agreed to not use the term "sexual slavery" to refer to comfort women forced to serve in Japanese wartime brothels. On Tuesday Seoul dismissed the Japanese claims as "not true."

South Korea said it defends the use of the term because the comfort women issue addresses problems of history, sexual violence and the violation of human rights, according to Newsis.

Seoul previously summoned a Japanese Embassy official over the Dokdo issue on March 24 to protest the labeling of Dokdo as Takeshima in Japanese textbooks.

Japan and South Korea are two key U.S. allies increasingly mired in disputes over history and trade.

In 2019, Japan restricted the export of key chemicals to Korea, after a South Korean court ordered Japanese firms to compensate victims of forced wartime labor.

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