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(LEAD) S. Korea strongly denounces Japan for renewing its claim to Dokdo

All Headlines 15:49 February 22, 2017

(ATTN: ADDS details, including background info from 3rd para)

SEOUL, Feb. 22 (Yonhap) -- South Korea on Wednesday denounced Japan for sending a high-ranking official to a local event aimed at promoting its territorial claim to Seoul's easternmost islets of Dokdo.

"We strongly protest Japan's central government for maintaining its unjustified claim to Dokdo by sending a high-ranking official again to the so-called Dokdo Day held by Shimane Prefecture," the foreign ministry said in a statement.

"We demand Japan immediately stop its useless attempt over Dokdo, which is our territory historically, geographically and by international law, and must show an attitude of seeing historical facts in a humble way," it added.

The ministry also called in a senior Japanese diplomat to lodge an official protest.

In 2005, Japan's Shimane Prefecture, which claims administrative sovereignty over the rocky islets, designated Feb. 22 as Takeshima Day. Takeshima is the Japanese name for Dokdo.

Tokyo sent a vice-minister-level official to this year's ceremony Wednesday as a government representative, the fifth year in a row that a ranking policymaker has joined the controversial event.

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

South Korea has kept a small police detachment on Dokdo since its liberation from Japan in 1945 and has made clear that Tokyo's claims are utterly groundless.

Earlier, Japan's education ministry disclosed a draft version of its revised education guidelines that calls for elementary and middle schools to teach their students that Dokdo is Japan's territory.

The latest friction over Dokdo comes on top of already frayed diplomatic ties between the two countries over a girl statue recently erected before Japan's consulate in South Korea. The statue symbolizes the hardship suffered by Korean women forced by Japan into front-line brothels during World War II.

Japan is demanding its immediate removal and recalled its ambassador to South Korea in protest last month. The Japanese top envoy has yet to return to his post. South Korea claims that it is not in its purview to take down the statue since it was built by civic groups.

kokobj@yna.co.kr
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