Japan escalated its verbal attacks on Seoul over the Takeshima territorial row Friday, with Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda calling South Korea's control of the islets "illegal" and the Lower House adopting a resolution denouncing its president, Lee Myung Bak, the first such Diet action over the islets in almost 60 years.

Noda made the comments in the Diet, then later held a news conference to explain Japan's diplomatic stance on two of its territorial issues, in an apparent bid to avoid alienating voters.

He vowed to handle the disputes "in a level-headed manner" and "with firm, unwavering determination" to defend Japan's remote islands, including Takeshima and the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. The Senkakus, controlled by Japan, are claimed by China and Taiwan.