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Last Updated: Friday, 21 April 2006, 14:46 GMT 15:46 UK
Islands row divides press
South Korean protesters burn a Japanese military flag
South Korean protesters burn a Japanese military flag

Newspapers in both South Korea and Japan have traded sharp accusations over Tokyo's plan to send survey ships into waters around a group of disputed islands called Dokdo in South Korea and Takeshima in Japan.

Editorials in both countries accuse the other side of provocation but also call for the row to be settled peacefully.

Describing the situation as "very serious", The Korea Herald says that current relations between South Korea and Japan are much more tense than in the past.

Japan's move, it says, is evidence of an "apparent shift to rightist nationalism and expansionism", which has implications for the security of the region.

"The naive Japanese public is mesmerised by the populist policy lines of the rightist government" of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, it adds.

"The developments in Japan should sound an alarm bell not only in Korea but the whole of Asia."

Hangyore Shinmun agrees, describing Japan's plan as a "provocation" and part of "the general rightward turn" in Japanese politics.

"If, as the Japanese government claims, the purpose of the survey is to determine names for areas under the sea, then it should give priority to a diplomatic agreement and there should be no reason to go to unreasonable lengths with the current survey."

Chosun Ilbo accuses Tokyo of "unilateral thinking" and believes it is trying to escalate the dispute and bring it before the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea which, it thinks, is likely to rule in Japan's favour.

It also criticises the South Korean government for not having anticipated such a move.

View from Tokyo

Japanese papers, by contrast, suggest that South Korea is making a fuss over the issue but call for it to be resolved through discussions.

Sankei Shimbun accuses South Korea of being "provocative" and adopting a nationalist stance, while Tokyo Shimbun warns that the row is inciting anti-Korean feeling in Japan.

The leading business daily, Nihon Keizai Shimbun, says the two countries need to "unite their wisdom" and find a diplomatic solution to avoid a possible collision at sea.

Despite "harsh backlashes" from South Korea, there are signs that Seoul wants to settle the issue through diplomatic channels, it says.

The paper believes that South Korea's stance is "a performance aimed at the domestic audience".

Asahi Shimbun thinks it would be a mistake to link the South Korean government's position with the need to win support in the run up to next month's elections.

The islands, the paper suggests, have been "deep rooted" in the minds of Koreans since Japan's former colonisation of the Korean peninsula.

Although it thinks Seoul's reaction represents a "misunderstanding" of Japan's intentions, the paper also accuses Tokyo of having failed to explain why it needs to carry out the survey at this time.

It proposes that the ships survey sea areas where the two countries' exclusive economic zones do not overlap.

BBC Monitoring selects and translates news from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages. It is based in Caversham, UK, and has several bureaux abroad.

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