|Dokdo (Yonhap News)|
The nation's parliament sharply hiked next year's budget for promoting South Korea's ownership of the easternmost islands of Dokdo to counter Japan's growing attempts to lay claim to the territory, the foreign ministry said Thursday.
The Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee, which oversees the foreign and unification ministries, adopted a 6.84 billion won ($6.5 million) budget bill for the foreign ministry's activities in 2014 to globally promote the country's ownership over the set of small islets, according to ministry.
The bill has been tossed to the National Assembly's budget settlement committee for a review, it said.
The so-called Dokdo budget for 2014 marks a 60-percent increase from the 4.24 billion won that was approved for this year.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs had initially earmarked the same 4.24 billion won budget for 2014, but the parliamentary committee expanded it by 2.6 billion won, citing the need to react more actively against Japan's intensifying territorial claims.
Japan, under the nationalistic administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, has renewed attempts to lay claim to the islets, which lie closer to South Korea in the body of water between the Korean Peninsula and Japan.
In the latest move in a series of Seoul-Tokyo diplomatic disputes over Dokdo, the South Korean government issued a protest and a warning late Wednesday after the Japanese foreign ministry posted video footage on its official website, dubbed in many foreign languages, laying claim to the South Korean islets.
The Dokdo budget is to cover costs for history studies, data filing and promotional campaigns in and outside of the country to reassert the country's ownership of Dokdo and guard against Japan's growing ownership claims.
In 2003, South Korea first allocated a separate budget of 250 million won to combat Japan's continuing territorial claims, and has steadily increased the amount to reach 2.37 billion won in 2011 and further to 4.24 billion won this year.
The Dokdo outcroppings, on which South Korea keeps a small police detachment, have been a major source of strain in its relations with Japan.
"An increase in the budget may help strengthen (South Korea's efforts) to tighten its grip on Dokdo," a foreign ministry official said. (Yonhap News)