By Kim Kwang-tae
SEOUL, March 10 (Yonhap) -- South Korea plans to carry out an exploration of the ocean floor near its eastern island of Ulleung around July and August, an official said, in an apparent effort to better understand its easternmost territory, Dokdo.
Dokdo -- a set of rocky islets in the East Sea -- has long been a source of diplomatic friction between South Korea and Japan.
Seoul keeps a small police detachment on the islets, effectively controlling Dokdo. Still, Japan has repeatedly claimed sovereignty over the rocky outcroppings, which are 87 kilometers southeast of Ulleung Island.
South Korea's state-run Korea Institute of Ocean Science and Technology (KIOST) plans to collect samples from the ocean floor around Ulleung to try to see if the island and Dokdo share geological features, according to the official of the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries.
Shared geological features between Dokdo and Ulleung Island could further strengthen Seoul's hold on Dokdo.
The ministry official brushed aside any possible Japanese protest against the planned scientific research.
In 2017, Japan lodged a protest with South Korea's foreign ministry against scientific research carried out near Dokdo. At that time, South Korea dismissed the complaints as being unfounded.
KIOST has carried out maritime research near Dokdo every year since 2006.
South Korea and Japan are close economic partners and key allies of the United States, though they have long been in conflict over territory and other historical disputes stemming from Japan's brutal 1910-45 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.
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