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South Korea

South Korean President's Visit To Disputed Islands Sparks Tensions



South Korea's President Lee Myung-bak is visiting the disputed Dokdo islands Friday, in an attempt to reassert the country's control over the territory which is also claimed by Japan, reports the Korean Herald.

The Dokdo islets, or Takeshima as the Japanese call them, are equidistant between the two Asian countries and are believed to be rich in natural gas deposits.

Lee is the first president to visit the islands, a trip coinciding with the 67th anniversary of Korea's independence from Japan, who colonized the peninsula between 1910-1945.

Japan is keen to forget the past but South Korea seems unable to see beyond it or restrain itself. Lee Myung-bak to visit contested islands.

— Brahma Chellaney (@Chellaney) August 10, 2012

I have observed many twitter fans in Japan protesting South Korea against South Korean president Lee's illegal entry... bit.ly/MXHy3i

— Ted Yokohama自称特務機関å"¡ (@TedYokohama) August 10, 2012

The BBC's Tokyo correspondent Mariko Oi writes: "The dispute over these islands is a sensitive issue and one that has often been a hurdle to the otherwise improving relations between the two countries. Many Japanese media outlets say it is inevitable that the bilateral relationship will suffer."

Yonhap News Agency reported Friday that the South Korean military had increased the number of Air Force combat planes and military vessels in preparation for the president's visit.

The assertion of South Korean sovereignty has angered Japanese ministers, with Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba urging Mr. Lee to cancel the trip.

Japan is also planning on recalling its ambassador to Seoul, Masatoshi Muto, as a sign of protest.

The video below shows South Korean protestors in 2011 against Japan's claim to the islands.

Japan is also currently locked in a diplomatic row with China over the Senkaku islands.

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