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(LEAD) Cheong Wa Dae condemns Japan's territorial claim

All Headlines 16:27 April 06, 2010

(ATTN: UPDATES with summoning of Japanese envoy, foreign ministry's reaction; TRIMS)
By Lee Chi-dong

SEOUL, April 6 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's presidential office warned Tuesday that Japan's continued claim to sovereignty over Dokdo, a set of South Korean islets in the East Sea, will further damage the two countries' often-prickly relations.

"It is very disappointing," Cheong Wa Dae spokesman Park Sun-kyoo told reporters. "We can never make concessions when it comes to the territorial issue."

Cheong Wa Dae's unusually strong statement came in response to Japan's publication of an annual diplomatic report that describes Dokdo as part of its territory on historical grounds and by international law.

The spokesman said Japan's "distorted claim based on a false historical perception will not be good for South Korea-Japan relations and Japan's own future."

The neighboring nations have been at odds for decades over Dokdo as Tokyo continues to lay claim to the rocky outcroppings, largely uninhabited except for a small South Korean coast guard unit. The move comes as emotions run high in South Korea. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the start of Japan's 1910-1945 colonial occupation of Korea, a period marked by sexual slavery, forced labor and usurpation of national identity.

South Koreans view Japan's claim to Dokdo as a sign that Tokyo continues to whitewash its wartime past.

Seoul's foreign ministry said Japan's move is dashing hopes of the two sides opening a new chapter in their relationship this year.

"We express our deep regrets as it runs against the desire and hope of many sensible and intelligent people of the two countries to begin a new 100 years of relations in the year that marks the 100th anniversary of the forced annexation of Korea and Japan," ministry spokesman Kim Young-sun said.

Kim added his ministry had summoned Reiichiro Takahashi, deputy chief of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, to convey the message.

Last week, the Japanese government endorsed elementary school textbooks that say South Korea is "illegally occupying" Dokdo.

Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan immediately summoned the Japanese ambassador here to file a formal complaint, and Prime Minister Chung Un-chan criticized Tokyo for "trying to teach falsehoods about Dokdo even to elementary school students."

Ruling party lawmakers asked President Lee Myung-bak to take steps to strengthen the country's effective control over Dokdo. Lee, in response, said his government will consider ways to do so.


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