South Korea received a letter Japan's prime minister wrote to President Lee Myung-bak about recent tensions over Lee's visit to the easternmost South Korean islets of Dokdo, but there is no change in the country's position on the matter, officials said.
Japanese media reported Friday that Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda sent the letter to Lee via Seoul's Embassy in Tokyo, describing as regrettable Lee's Aug. 10 visit to Dokdo and his remarks that Japan's Emperor Akihito should apologize for Japan's 1910-45 colonial rule if he wishes to visit South Korea.
Noda also proposed in the letter that Japan and South Korea jointly take the Dokdo issue to the International Court of Justice, reports said.
Officials at Seoul's presidential office said the embassy received the letter.
"In line with diplomatic practice, we can't say specifically what's in there, but there isn't anything new in it," an official said on condition of anonymity.
The official said the letter made no direct mention about Lee's remarks about Japan's emperor or Tokyo's proposal to take the Dokdo issue to the international court, though its contents can be understood that way.
"There is no change in our position on the Dokdo issue," the official said, accusing Japan of speaking up only on the Dokdo issue while maintaining silence about the issue of the disputed Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, which China calls Diaoyu and claims as its territory.
Some officials expressed displeasure about Japan disclosing the letter to the press.
South Korea is reportedly studying two options on how to respond to the letter. One option is that Seoul will neither reply nor make any reaction to the letter. Another option calls for South Korea to respond by sending a reply in which it will reiterate its position on the Dokdo issue and refute Japan's sovereignty claim to the islets.
"We will hold further discussions" another official said, noting it is not an issue that should be hastily decided.
South Korea has flatly rejected Japan's proposal to take the Dokdo matter to the international court, saying it makes no sense to refer what is clearly the country's territory to the court.
Japan's claims to Dokdo have long been a thorn in relations between South Korea and Japan. South Korea keeps a small police detachment on the islets, effectively controlling them.
South Koreans see those claims as amounting to denying Korea's rights because the country regained independence from the 1910-45 Japanese colonial rule and reclaimed sovereignty over its territory, which includes Dokdo and many other islands around the Korean Peninsula.