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(2nd LD) S. Korea urges Japan to stop claiming Dokdo

All News 16:09 January 17, 2017

(ATTN: ADDS more background from 7th para)

SEOUL, Jan. 17 (Yonhap) -- South Korea called on Japan Tuesday to stop its repeated and unjustifiable territorial claims of the country's easternmost islets of Dokdo.

In a related move, the foreign ministry said that it called in a Japanese Embassy official to deliver its concerns and strong protest.

The move comes after Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters in Tokyo that the islets are Japan's own territory, referring to Dokdo by its Japanese name Takeshima. He made the remark in response to a question about a push by the council of a South Korean province to install a girl statue symbolizing Japan's wartime sexual slavery on the islets.

"It is deplorable that Japan makes these claims," Foreign Ministry spokesman Cho June-hyuck said at a regular press briefing. "We call upon Tokyo to stop making such useless claims."

Dokdo, which lies closer to South Korea in the East Sea between the Korean Peninsula and Japan, has long been a source of tension between the neighbors.

South Korea has kept a small police detachment on the islets since 1954 and has made it clear that Tokyo's claims over the territory are groundless.

Tokyo's renewed territorial provocations came against the backdrop of a diplomatic row which flared up between the two countries over a recently erected girl statue, which symbolizes Japan's sexual enslavement of women during World War II, in front of its consulate in the southern port city of Busan.

Japan has demanded the statue be removed immediately. In protest, Tokyo recalled its ambassador to Seoul early last week. The ambassador hasn't yet returned.

Japan's wartime sexual slavery has been a major source of diplomatic friction between the two countries. Historians estimate that up to 200,000 women, mostly from Korea, were forced into sexual slavery for Japanese troops.

In December 2015, South Korea and Japan reached a deal and promised to resolve the issue once and for all.

Under the deal, Tokyo expressed an apology and agreed to provide 1 billion yen (US$10.36 million) for a foundation aimed at supporting its surviving victims, euphemistically called comfort women.

Tokyo has claimed that removing the statue standing in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul is part of the deal and that installing yet another is a violation of the agreement.

Seoul has promised to make efforts to produce a "proper resolution" on the matter but noted that it doesn't have any authority to remove the statues, which were built by civic groups.

kokobj@yna.co.kr
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