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S. Korea to return Japanese PM's letter   2012-08-24 07:16:00

South Korea said Thursday it will return a letter Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda wrote to South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, highlighting tension over disputed islets lying halfway between the two neighbors.

In the letter handed over to the South Korean embassy in Tokyo last week, Noda protested Lee's high-profile visit to the disputed islets and his recent remarks that Japanese Emperor Akihito should offer an apology over Japan's 35-year colonial rule if he wishes to visit South Korea.

Noda also proposed taking the territorial dispute to the International Court of Justice, a move dismissed repeatedly by Seoul as "unworthy of consideration."

The proposal is Japan's attempt to bring international attention to the dispute over the islets known as Dokdo in South Korea and Takeshima in Japan, though the Hague-based court will not hear the case unless both contending parties agree to the third-party arbitration.

"The decision to return the letter was based on our comprehensive review" of the circumstances surrounding the dispute, foreign ministry spokesman Cho Tae-young told reporters, calling Japan's renewed sovereignty claim "extremely unreasonable".

Responding to the letter might only help Japan in its attempt to claim the islets as an area in dispute, Cho added.

He also urged Japanese foreign minister Koichiro Gemba to " immediately withdraw" his remarks that South Korea's control of the islets amounted to an "illegal occupation".

The lonely set of islets coveted for rich mineral resources in the surrounding waters has been a chronic source of diplomatic row between the two neighbors.

South Korea has maintained control over the rocky outcroppings since it regained independence from Japan's 1910-45 colonial rule of the Korean peninsula.

With the two countries still at odds over a number of historical issues, many South Koreans see recurring territorial disputes as a sign of an unrepentant Japan.

Last month, South Korea's attempt to forge its first military pact with Japan since the end of the colonial rule was thwarted at the last minute by the outraged public weary of Japan's resurgent military ambitions.

source : Xinhua     editor:: Ala
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