• Kyodo

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South Korea plans to take a tougher stance in talks with Japan on the boundaries of the two countries’ exclusive economic zone and propose disputed islets as a cardinal point to draw the line.

“Under the current circumstances, we have no choice but to propose (the islets as a cardinal point),” Yonhap News Agency quoted Suh Choo Suk, senior presidential secretary for national security, as saying on a radio talk show Monday.

The islets are called Dokdo by South Korea, which controls them, and Takeshima by Japan.

Seoul and Tokyo had several rounds of talks on the issue between 1996 and 2000 but failed to reach agreement.

During the previous negotiations, South Korea proposed drawing the midway point between Ullung Island, a bigger island west of Takeshima and Oki Island off Shimane Prefecture, while Japan wanted to set the demarcation line between Takeshima and Ullung, Yonhap reported.

Takeshima is about 160 km northwest of Oki Island.

Suh’s remarks were seen as the first confirmation of South Korea’s new position on the issue, which some observers said marks an about-face from the earlier stance the country would not use the disputed islets as its EEZ boundary.

But South Korean Foreign Ministry officials denied it represents a shift in the government’s position, saying Seoul has never ruled out setting the boundary between Takeshima and Oki Island, Yonhap reported.

South Korea and Japan are to hold two days of talks starting next Monday on demarcating their disputed EEZs in the Sea of Japan.

The territorial dispute has exacerbated bilateral relations.

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