WASHINGTON, May 19 (Yonhap) -- The chairman of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee reiterated Tuesday that South Korea's easternmost islets of Dokdo belong to none other than the country, rejecting Japan's long-running claims to the islets.
"This has been the case throughout history. The only time that I've ever seen it show up differently on the map was after Japan occupied Korea ... then Japan claimed South Korea -- all of Korea and claimed Dokdo island," Royce said during a conference of Korean Americans at the Congress.
"But in terms of history, Dokdo island is part of Korea," he said.
South Korea has rejected Japan's claims over Dokdo as nonsense because the country regained independence from the 1910-45 colonial rule after the war and reclaimed sovereignty over its territory, including Dokdo and many other islands around the Korean Peninsula.
Seoul has been keeping a small police detachment on Dokdo since 1954.
In an interview with Yonhap News Agency, Royce also said in December that Dokdo is the right name to refer to the islets, stressing the importance of understanding "history and what abuses occurred."
Japan's claims to Dokdo have been one of the long-running thorns in relations between Seoul and Tokyo, along with Tokyo's refusal to offer a clear apology and compensate victims of the country's sexual enslavement of Korean women during World War II.
South Koreans see Japanese claims to Dokdo as a sign that its has not fully repented for its imperialist past.
Royce is considered one of the "pro-Korean" U.S. lawmakers and has led a series of measures related to South and North Korea.
Last month, he strongly criticized Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for failing to offer a clear apology for the country's wartime sexual enslavement of Korean and other Asian women when he delivered an unprecedented address at a joint session of Congress.
On Tuesday, Royce urged Abe not to miss another chance to offer an apology, referring to Abe's plan to issue a statement in August to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II.
"There's one more opportunity to do that," he said. "We have suggested that Prime Minister Abe should take that important step. There should be a formal apology to the comfort women and there should be a recognition of what happened in history."
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