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Former president Roh ordered attack on Japanese ships near Dokdo: aide

All Headlines 10:47 August 19, 2011

SEOUL, Aug. 19 (Yonhap) -- Former President Roh Moo-hyun had ordered his maritime police to smash into Japanese vessels in 2006 if they approached Dokdo in an attempt to claim the easternmost South Korean islets, one of the late leader's former aides said.

Roh, president from 2003-2008, was known for his hard-line stance on Japan's attempts to lay claim to Dokdo or gloss over atrocities committed during its 1910-45 colonial rule of Korea. In 2005, Roh even said he was prepared for "diplomatic war" with Tokyo to safeguard Seoul's sovereignty over Dokdo.

Tokyo's territorial claims over Dokdo have long been a thorn in relations between the two countries. South Koreans see those claims as amounting to denying Korea's independence as well as a sign that the neighboring nation has not fully repented for its imperialist past.

In April 2006, tensions spiked as Japan announced it would conduct ocean research in waters near Dokdo in response to South Korea's decision to seek to register Korean names for the seabed features with the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO).

At the time, Roh "ordered that if the Japanese research vessels come to Dokdo, they be pushed and broken," said Kim Byung-joon, then chief of the presidential office's policy planning bureau, in an article posted Wednesday on a Web site commemorating the late president.

"Under the order, the (South Korean) Coast Guard had made full preparations," he said.

Roh also issued a special statement to reinforce South Korea's position on Dokdo, saying that the islets are "South Korean territory where the history of bitter grief is engraved clearly." Kim said Roh wrote the statement on his own.

The dispute was ultimately resolved through diplomacy. Under an agreement reached between the vice foreign ministers of the two countries, Japan called off the ocean research plan and South Korea postponed registering Korean names for the seabed features with the IHO, Kim said.

Kim said that the Roh government later succeeded in registering 10 Korean names with the IHO.

Relations between Seoul and Tokyo have frayed again recently over Japan's claims to Dokdo.

Earlier this month, a group of Japanese lawmakers attempted to enter South Korea in a bid to lay claim to the islets. Seoul barred their entry and the lawmakers returned to Japan after staying at an airport for hours.

South Korea has rejected Japan's claims over Dokdo as nonsense because the country regained independence from colonial rule and reclaimed sovereignty over its territory, including Dokdo and many other islands around the Korean Peninsula.

South Korea has kept a small police detachment on Dokdo since 1954.


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