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Seoul officials to hold meeting on Dokdo issue

Officials from the ruling party and the government plan to hold an emergency meeting Monday to discuss how to tackle Japan’s repeated territorial claims over Korea’s easternmost islets of Dokdo.

Japan approved Tuesday new middle school textbooks claiming the islets as its territory, drawing a strong protest from the Seoul government.

It repeated its territorial claims over Dokdo in its annual diplomatic report Friday.

The Grand National Party said it will hold a meeting with the government Monday to discuss how to draw up measures to counter Japan’s claims and how to bolster South Korea’s effective control over the islets.

In a show of protest, President Lee Myung-bak pledged Friday to strengthen South Korea’s sovereign control of the islets, saying that Dokdo is “our territory” under any circumstances.

Referring to calls for stronger government action on the issue, Lee said, however, that it wouldn’t be wise for Seoul to make a big deal of the Dokdo matter as the islets are under South Korean control.

“We will continue to undertake what it takes to strengthen our effective control,” he said.

The Japanese diplomatic report, which outlines the country’s positions on major points, carried the same territorial descriptions of Dokdo as its version issued last year, which says Japan has a consistent position that the islets are its territory.

The report also says that Japan is trying to promote its position through pamphlets while repeatedly delivering the stance to South Korea, and that the country will make persistent efforts to bring a peaceful resolution to the issue.

Seoul’s Foreign Ministry expressed deep regret over the Japanese move. Director-General Chang Won-sam, who is in charge of relations with Tokyo, summoned Nobukatsu Kanehara, a diplomatic minister at Japan’s embassy in Seoul, and filed an official protest, a ministry official said.

During the meeting, Chang demanded that Japan remove the references to Dokdo from the diplomatic report and delivered an official letter of protest, the official said.

Kanehara said that Japan believes the issue should not adversely affect relations between the two countries and expressed thanks for the support that South Korea’s government and people have provided to his nation following a devastating quake and tsunami, the official said.

Japanese school textbooks arguing territorial claims over Dokdo or glorifying its wartime history have been considered as thorny issues between the two nations as resentment over Japan’s 1910-45 colonial rule of Korea still runs deep here.

The approval of the textbooks is expected to throw cold water on bilateral relations, which have improved since the Democratic Party of Japan came to power in 2009.

Japan first mentioned the Dokdo claims in the diplomatic report in 1963 and has since carried the claims in the books on an irregular basis without putting them in the reports issued in 1967-1970, 1988-1989, 1993-1996, 1998-1999, 2002 and 2007.

(From news reports)
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