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Page last updated at 09:56 GMT, Monday, 14 July 2008 10:56 UK

South Korea to recall Japan envoy

The fresh claim sparked protests outside the Japanese embassy in Seoul on Monday
The dispute is an emotive one, and sparked fresh protests in Seoul

South Korea says it is to recall its envoy to Japan in the latest flare-up of tensions over disputed islands.

The foreign ministry said Japan had reasserted its claim to the islands, which are under South Korean control in waters between the Asian neighbours.

The fresh claim to Japanese ownership of the islands - known as Dokdo in Korea and Takeshima in Japan - was reportedly made in a book for teachers.

The islands sit in rich fishing grounds which may also contain gas reserves.

'Disappointment'

Ambassador Kwon Chul-hyun will return home temporarily after lodging a strong protest with Japan's foreign ministry, the Seoul foreign ministry said.

Japan's ambassador to Seoul, Toshinori Shigeie, would also be summoned, the ministry said.

Map

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak expressed "deep disappointment and regret" about Tokyo's fresh claim of sovereignty over the islands, which South Korea says is made in a teacher's guide to middle-school textbooks.

President Lee has sought to cultivate better ties with Tokyo. In April he held the first full summit meeting between the two in three years.

Meanwhile in Tokyo, government spokesman Nobutaka Machimura said his government had been cautious about the phrasing of the guidelines, and called for calm.

"Needless to say, South Korea is an important neighbour for Japan," he said.

"We want to avoid a situation where Japan-South Korea relations are influenced by each and every issue, and I hope both sides will calmly respond."

Protests were seen at the Japanese embassy and elsewhere in Seoul, with riot police reportedly deployed in response.

Colonial past

South Korea and Japan both insist they have the stronger historical claim to the islands, going back hundreds of years.

The recent dispute centres on whether they were covered by Japan's renunciation of sovereignty over its occupied territories following its defeat in World War II.

South Korea stations a small unit of maritime police on the rugged and treeless islands, which cover a total area of 18.7 hectares (46 acres).




SEE ALSO
S Korea plan for disputed islands
04 May 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Japan asks S Korea to end survey
05 Jul 06 |  Asia-Pacific
S Korea bid to solve sea dispute
08 Jan 07 |  Asia-Pacific
Seoul warns Japan on island row
17 Mar 05 |  Asia-Pacific

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