The government formally proposed to South Korea on Tuesday that the two countries jointly seek a resolution to the dispute over islets in the Sea of Japan at the International Court of Justice.
The proposal was sent to the South Korean government through the embassy in Seoul, officials said.
South Korea, which has control of the islets, had indicated earlier it would reject Japan’s offer.
The islets are called Dokdo by South Korea and Takeshima by Japan.
The move came in the wake of South Korean President Lee Myung Bak’s recent contentious visit to one of the islets, which lie roughly midway between the two countries in the Sea of Japan and house a small South Korean garrison.
During a Cabinet meeting Tuesday about the territorial dispute, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said he would urge South Korea to “squarely” join Japan in taking the case to the International Court of Justice.
Lee’s visit to the islets was “deplorable” and Japan “needs to take a firm stance,” Noda said, adding he will ask South Korea to respond “in a thoughtful and cautious manner” in order to develop the bilateral relationship.
If South Korea formally rejects going to the court, Japan is likely to submit the case unilaterally. Foreign Minister Koichiro Genba has said he believes Japan has a good chance of winning its case for sovereignty over the islets.
South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung Hwan said in a parliamentary session Tuesday that Japan’s proposal is unworthy of notice.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura quoted Noda as asking members of his Cabinet, including Genba and Deputy Prime Minister Katsuya Okada, to consider what Japan can do next in response to Lee’s Aug. 10 trip to the islets.
Finance Minister Jun Azumi earlier suggested Japan may downsize its bilateral currency swap contracts with South Korea.
The agreement is widely seen as a measure to help South Korea gain access to sufficient dollar funds, which may be used by its authorities to intervene in the market to prevent any sharp fall in the won against the yen and other major currencies.
Tokyo is also expected to consider freezing meetings of top bureaucrats or higher-level officials between the two nations, as well as stop inviting South Korean government officials to Japan.
During the meeting Tuesday, Azumi said he will postpone talks with his South Korean counterpart slated for this weekend in Seoul, Fujimura told reporters.
Fujimura added that Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Yukio Edano has decided not to hold bilateral talks with South Korean officials on the sidelines of the annual Association of Southeast Asian Nation economic ministerial meeting scheduled for later this month.