Dokdo issue may put shuttle diplomacy with Japan in jeopardy

By Lee Chi-dong

SEOUL, June 2 (Yonhap) — Tokyo could jeopardize the hard-won resumption of shuttle diplomacy between the leaders of South Korea and Japan if it continues an outright campaign to lay claim to Dokdo, a set of rocky islets in the East Sea, a Seoul government official said Monday.

South Korea will raise the issue at the strategic dialogue to be held in Tokyo this week between Vice Foreign Minister Kwon Jong-rak and his Japanese counterpart Mitoji Yabunaka, added the Foreign Ministry official who asked not to be named, apparently due to the sensitivity of the matter.

“We will take issue with Japan’s reported move on Dokdo at the strategic dialogue, although it is mainly aimed at discussing global issues such as the North Korean nuclear crisis,” he said.

The meeting slated for Thursday will be the first high-level diplomatic contact between the two sides since media reports last month that Japan’s Education Ministry is pushing to describe Dokdo as Japanese territory in its revised curriculum handbook to be used from 2012.

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, who has vowed to improve Seoul’s ties with Tokyo over their bitter shared history, reacted strongly to the news, urging related officials to deal with it sternly.

The government immediately called in the Japanese ambassador to Seoul to deliver a protest message.

“We expect Japan to retract the move, as it would not want to damage ties with South Korea,” the official said, adding Tokyo is supposed to make a final decision by July 14 on whether to insert the controversial description of Dokdo into the new curriculum.

If Tokyo holds its position, however, the shuttle diplomacy between the leaders of the two nations will likely be suspended again, he said.

South Korean President Lee visited Tokyo last month and had a summit with Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda in which they agreed to resume the biannual summits.

Fukuda is scheduled to make a reciprocal trip to Seoul in September for another summit with Lee.

Japanese and South Korean leaders began the shuttle diplomacy in July 2004, but the exchanges stopped a year later due to South Korea’s anger over then Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s repeated visits to the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo that honors Japan’s war dead, including war criminals.

Relations between Seoul and Tokyo have often been marred by disputes over history and territory, which are partially a legacy of Japan’s colonial rule of Korea from 1910-45.
(END) [YONHAP NEWS] | Original News @ HERE
Date : 2008/06/02


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