Tokyo: The Japanese government is considering recalling its ambassador to South Korea or have him return temporarily in a show of strong protest if President Lee Myung Bak makes an unprecedented trip to disputed islands, a senior Foreign Ministry official said on Friday.
In Tokyo, Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba said any such trip “would have a great impact on Japan-South Korea relations” and Japan would “have to respond firmly”.
Tokyo today called the cancellation of Lee’s visit planned for later in the day to the pair of islands in the Sea of Japan, which are controlled by Seoul but claimed by Tokyo, saying the trip would hurt bilateral ties.
If the visit is made, “it would go against our country’s position and so we cannot accept it,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said at a news conference, adding that the development is “extremely regrettable.”
Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba strongly urged the cancellation of Lee’s visit to the islet group, called Takeshima in Japan and Dokdo in South Korea, warning that Tokyo would firmly respond if it goes ahead.
Speaking to reporters, Gemba noted that Lee’s visit to the islands, which it considers an integral part of Japanese territory, “would definitely have a large impact” on relations between the two countries, already tense due to the
The South Korean government said this morning that Lee will travel to the pair of islands via Ulleungdo, a South Korean island northwest of them.
Lee is expected to travel to the islands soon, possibly in the afternoon, after going to Ulleungdo and checking weather conditions.
If the visit to the islands is realized, it would be the first by a South Korean president.
The South Korean move is apparently driven by Seoul’s willingness to take a hard-line stance on the territorial dispute ahead of the anniversary next Wednesday of the end of World War II, which for South Koreans marked liberation from the 35-year Japanese colonial rule.
The islet group consists of two small islands and numerous reefs.
Japan claims it as part of Shimane Prefecture, while South Korea says it is part of its North Gyeongsang Province.