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Foreign ministry calls in Japanese diplomat over Tokyo's renewed Dokdo claims

Hirohisa Soma, a senior Japanese Embassy official, arrives at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs building on May 19, 2020. (Yonhap)
Hirohisa Soma, a senior Japanese Embassy official, arrives at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs building on May 19, 2020. (Yonhap)
The foreign ministry called in a Japanese diplomat in Seoul on Monday to lodge a protest over Japan's renewed claims to South Korea's easternmost islets of Dokdo.

Kim Jung-han, the ministry's director general for Asian Pacific affairs, expressed regrets to Hirohisa Soma, deputy head of mission at the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, after the Japanese prefecture of Shimane held an annual event to publicize Japan's claim to the rocky outcroppings in the East Sea.

The latest flare-up of tensions came as Seoul seeks to mend ties with Tokyo, frayed over wartime history and trade, amid Washington's push to bring its allies closer together to address shared challenges, such as lingering North Korean threats.

Choi Young-sam, ministry spokesman, called for Japan to abolish the Takeshima Day event immediately and urged it to "face history with a humble attitude." Dokdo is known as Takeshima in Japan.

"The government strongly protests the repeat of the futile provocation regarding Dokdo and calls sternly for the immediate abolition of the event," Choi said in a statement.

"As Dokdo is part of our inherent territory historically, geographically and by international law, Japan should immediately stop unjust claims to Dokdo and face history with a humble attitude," he added.

Shimane Prefecture in western Japan designated Feb. 22 as Takeshima Day in 2005 to claim its administrative sovereignty over Dokdo. Since 2006, it has annually hosted the event to mark the day.

At this year's event, the first since Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga took office in September last year, Tokyo sent a vice ministerial official there.

Dokdo has long been a recurring source of tension between the two neighbors, as Tokyo continues to lay claim to the islets in its policy papers, public statements and school textbooks.

South Korea has been in effective control of Dokdo, with a small police detachment, since its liberation from Japan's 1910-45 colonial rule. (Yonhap)

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