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Japan demands disputed islands back from South Korea

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Yohei Matsumoto (C), parliamentary vice minister in Japan’s Cabinet Office, arrives at a ceremony to mark “Takeshima Day” in Matsue, Shimane prefecture, February 22, 2015.

Tokyo has called for Seoul to return a group of disputed islands in the Sea of Japan that have been controlled by South Korea, amid a territorial row between the two countries.

Japan’s Shimane prefectural government designated February 22 as “Takeshima Day,” as Tokyo calls the islets, in 2005 to mark the 1905 incorporation of the tiny islands. An annual ceremony has been organized ever since to commemorate the day. The prefectural government in southwest Japan held the annual convention Sunday.

Yohei Matsumoto, the parliamentary vice minister in Japan’s Cabinet Office, said during the Sunday event that the government was working to achieve a peaceful means to resolve the dispute.

Matsumoto also stated that Tokyo will not relent in its position that the islets are part of Japan’s sovereign territory.

Officials in Seoul were quick to respond to the statement. They termed Matsumoto’s remarks as “ludicrous.”

South Korea has coastguard officers stationed on the tiny islands in the Sea of Japan (East Sea). Seoul calls the islets Dokdo.

The territorial dispute along with other issues that stem from Japan’s 1910-45 colonial rule over the Korean Peninsula has strained ties between the two countries.

In 2012, tensions further increased after a surprise visit by the then South Korean president, Lee Myung-bak, to the island chain, which is said to have large deposits of natural gas and oil.

Japan is also engaged in another territorial dispute with China over a separate chain of islands in the East China Sea.


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