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(LEAD) S. Korea strongly protests Japan's renewed claims to Dokdo

Diplomacy 20:14 January 20, 2020

(ATTN: CHANGES headline, lead; UPDATES throughout)

SEOUL, Jan. 20 (Yonhap) -- The foreign ministry issued a strong protest on Monday over Japan's renewed claims to South Korea's easternmost islets of Dokdo, which overshadowed budding efforts to defuse a row between the two countries over wartime history and trade.

The ministry called in Hirohisa Soma, a senior official of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, to express regrets over the claims, long a thorn in the already fraught relations between Seoul and its onetime colonizer, Tokyo.

In a parliamentary speech earlier in the day, Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said that the East Sea islets are inherently Japan's territory.

Further irking South Koreans, Tokyo held a ceremony launching an expanded exhibition facility to reinforce its sovereignty claims to Dokdo and other islands claimed by other countries.

"The government strongly protests the fact that the Japanese government, through a diplomatic speech by its foreign minister, repeated the improper claim to Dokdo, which is inherently our territory, and we urge it to immediately retract the claim," Kim In-chul, the ministry's spokesman, said in a statement.

"As Dokdo is clearly our inherent territory historically, geographically and by international law, our government calls on the Japanese government to halt the futile attempt regarding Dokdo and humbly face history," he added.

This photo, taken on April 23, 2019, shows Kim In-chul, the spokesman for the foreign ministry, speaking during a press conference at the ministry in Seoul. (Yonhap)

In a separate statement, the spokesman urged Tokyo to immediately shut down the exhibition facility.

"It is deeply regrettable that the Japanese government has opened an expanded facility despite our government's repeated appeals for its immediate closure," he wrote in the statement.

The Japanese government has claimed sovereignty over Dokdo in its annual foreign policy address to the legislature for seven consecutive years.

South Korea has been in effective control of Dokdo since the Korean Peninsula's liberation from Japan's colonial rule in 1945.

sshluck@yna.co.kr
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