SEOUL, Jan. 12 (Yonhap) -- The foreign ministry on Tuesday defended South Korea's request this week for a Japanese survey vessel to stop its activities and leave the country's exclusive economic zone (EEZ) as a "legitimate" act of law enforcement.
On Monday, the Coast Guard made the request after it spotted the vessel conducting research activities without any prior consent from Seoul in waters off Korea's southern island of Jeju, according to media reports.
The incident came amid heightened tensions between Seoul and Tokyo over the long-running issues of Japan's wartime sexual slavery and forced labor, as well as its export restrictions.
"Our government regularly carries out activities in the waters under the jurisdiction of our government as part of the legitimate enforcement of the law in line with relevant and international laws," ministry spokesperson Choi Young-sam told a regular press briefing.
"According to our related authorities, we judge that the location in which the Japanese vessel's survey activities took place is in our EEZ," he added.
After the Coast Guard's request, Tokyo lodged a complaint with Seoul over the incident through a diplomatic channel, as it claims that the area falls under its own EEZ, according to Kyodo News Agency.
A ministry official said the government also made it clear to the Japanese side that any maritime survey in the overlapping zone needs consent from Seoul beforehand.
An EEZ is a sea zone that a country has special rights over regarding the exploration and use of marine resources. It stretches out to 200 nautical miles from the shore.
For Japan, the location is about 139 nautical miles west of islands off the western coast of Nagasaki.
A similar incident happened in August last year when the South Korean Coast Guard detected a Japanese survey ship in the EEZ.
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