P. S. Suryanarayana

SINGAPORE: Japan on Tuesday expressed willingness to peacefully resolve its dispute with South Korea regarding sovereignty over the Takeshima Islets, which the Koreans call Dokdo.

This was outlined by Japanese Foreign Minister Masahiko Koumura in Tokyo in the context of South Korea’s decision on Monday to “recall” its Ambassador to Japan in protest over its inclusion of Dokdo in a new teaching manual. The islets are considered important for their untapped marine and mineral resources.

Japan had often cited its “exercise of sovereignty” over these islets; and Tokyo is now seeking to sensitise the younger Japanese about the dispute. On the other hand, South Korea, which has controlled Dokdo since 1954, regards its status as a settled issue “beyond dispute.”

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak had said in Seoul on Monday the Japanese claim would be dealt with “sternly and strictly”. Voicing “deep regret and disappointment” over the sudden turn of events, so soon after his recent meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda in Toyoko, Mr. Lee emphasised that the two leaders had then “agreed to pursue a future-oriented partnership.”