Washington has urged Tokyo and Seoul to settle their sovereignty dispute over a pair of South Korea-controlled, Japan-claimed islets, an issue that has damaged ties between the two U.S. allies.

The call came in the form of a White House response to two online petitions on the rocky islets, called Takeshima by Japan and Dokdo by South Korea, and located roughly halfway between the two countries.

"This is a long-standing dispute that (South) Korea and Japan have handled with restraint in the past. We expect that they will continue to do so. We would welcome any outcome agreed to by both (South) Korea and Japan," the White House said Friday on its website.