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South Korea’s foreign affairs and trade minister expressed anger Thursday at the way Japan has handled a territorial dispute and its approval of revisionist history and civics textbooks.

“Japan has glorified its history and is going to teach a distorted version to young people,” Ban Ki Moon told Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura at the outset of bilateral talks in Islamabad.

Ban broke protocol and in the presence of reporters went straight into the issues that have frayed relations between the two countries.

“It is regrettable that we are meeting when relations between South Korea and Japan are unwell and unpleasant,” Ban told Machimura.

“I cannot help questioning the willingness of the Japanese government to develop future bilateral ties in this current situation. The South Korean people are very angry.”

Machimura responded: “It would not be good for the future of Japan and South Korea if the current situation continues. I can share the minister’s sense of urgency.”

Machimura later said he agreed with Ban that Tokyo and Seoul should arrange for a trip to South Korea by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi either in June or July as part of efforts to mend the strained ties.

Koizumi and South Korean President Roh Moo Hyun have agreed to meet twice a year, once in Japan and once in South Korea. Roh visited the hot spring resort of Ibusuki, Kagoshima Prefecture, in December for talks with Koizumi.

In Tokyo, Koizumi said he hopes the mutual visits proceed as scheduled, expressing hope that his next meeting with Roh is “future-oriented.”

Machimura and Ban met on the sidelines of the Asia Cooperation Dialogue forum.

It was the first foreign ministerial meeting between the two countries since bilateral relations became strained earlier this year after the Shimane Prefectural Assembly passed an ordinance in March to commemorate Feb. 22 as “Takeshima Day,” the name Japan uses for South Korea-controlled islets, called Tok-do by Seoul, in the Sea of Japan.

Feb. 22 was the date in 1905 that the islets were incorporated into the prefecture.

South Korea has also reacted sharply to Japan’s approval Tuesday of junior high school textbooks that include a civic studies book that says South Korea is “illegally occupying” the islets.

During Thursday’s talks with Machimura, Ban reiterated Seoul’s demand that references to Japan’s claim to Takeshima be deleted from the newly approved books, a Japanese official said.

South Korea, China and other parts of Asia have protested the history and civics textbooks, which the Japanese government has approved for use in public schools. The countries say the books gloss over Japan’s wartime aggression.

Texts no internal affair

BEIJING (Kyodo) Beijing believes Tokyo’s adoption of a history textbook criticized as being nationalistic does not constitute an internal affair that would make it inappropriate for China to interfere, because it affects Japan’s relations with neighboring countries, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said here Thursday.

The textbook “hurts the feelings of people in victimized countries, including the Chinese people, and affects Japan’s relations with neighboring countries in Asia, including China,” Qin Gang said at a regular press briefing.

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