SEOUL – Japanese Ambassador Shotaro Oshima rejected a request by South Korea on Friday to cancel plans for a maritime survey near disputed islets controlled by South Korea, the Japanese Embassy in Seoul said.
The request was made by South Korean Vice Foreign Minister Yu Myung Hwan at the Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministry.
The Japanese government announced earlier Friday that it planned to send a Japan Coast Guard vessel to conduct maritime surveys in the Sea of Japan near the islets, which are called Dokdo in South Korea and Takeshima in Japan.
Yu told Oshima the South Korean government demanded an immediate halt to the survey, saying it would intrude upon South Korea’s Exclusive Economic Zone.
Oshima responded by saying the survey will be conducted within Japan’s EEZ and in accordance with international maritime law. He called for a “cool-headed” response to the issue.
Oshima added that Japan cannot accept any South Korean action taken against a Japanese government vessel.
“It is very unfortunate to see Japan planning (such surveys) at a time when (South) Korea-Japan relations remain strained,” said a South Korean Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministry official on condition of anonymity.
At his official residence in Tokyo, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said, “I understand that (the survey) is within Japan’s EEZ. Both sides should deal with the matter in a cool-headed manner.”
Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe, the government’s top spokesman, said any South Korean action taken against the survey ship would be “unacceptable,” because Tokyo believes the survey “poses no problems in light of international law.”
Relations between Japan and South Korea have deteriorated since the Shimane Prefectural Assembly passed an ordinance on March 16, 2005, designating Feb. 22 “Takeshima Day.”
The prefectural government says the ordinance was aimed at raising public awareness about a prefectural notice issued on Feb. 22, 1905, declaring the islets part of Shimane.
South Korea regards them to be part of North Gyeongsang Province.
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