President Lee Myung-bak said Wednesday that Korea could not guarantee the safety of Japanese lawmakers if they visit Ulleung-do, the closest they can get to Korea’s easternmost islets of Dokdo, over which Japan claims sovereignty.
Lee made the remarks in a Cabinet meeting after he was briefed by the Foreign Ministry about the controversial plan of four Japanese lawmakers, according to presidential spokesperson Park Jung-ha.
“The president directed the Cabinet to convey to Tokyo our government’s concern over the safety of the Japanese politicians with regard to their planned visit to Ulleung-do and to hold consultations with Tokyo on the matter,” Park told reporters in Seoul.
The spokesperson added what the president meant behind the strong rhetoric is that the government should handle the matter peacefully through consultation with the Japanese authorities, rather than taking any forceful measure to block their visit.
Earlier reports said that the Foreign Ministry was considering banning the Japanese lawmakers from entering Korea.
Shindo Yoshitaka and three other lawmakers of Japan’s opposition Liberal Democratic Party plan to tour Ulleung-do on Aug. 1 to protest the Korean government’s move to strengthen its sovereignty over Dokdo through Ulleung-do.
Ulleung-do is Korea’s administrative and military defense base for Dokdo, a set of rocky islets located on the East Sea between Korea and Japan. Japan claims that the island belongs to it and calls the islets Takeshima.
Seoul keeps a naval base in Ulleungdo and plans to build a maritime research center on Ulleungdo, with some facilities to be set up on Dokdo.
Korea’s Special Affairs Minister Lee Jae-oh had condemned the plan to visit Ulleung-do, saying via Twitter: “If their visit is intended to back up their country’s groundless territorial claim on Dokdo, it amounts to the encroachment of Korea’s sovereignty. I will block their landing on the island by all means.”
By Lee Sun-young (firstname.lastname@example.org)