The government of President lee Myung-bak, which has made improving ties with Japan a major policy goal, said it was an “intolerable act” that Japan restated its territorial claim in a new guideline for junior high school teachers and textbook publishers released Monday.
“This is something we can never accept. Thus we protest strongly to the Japanese government and demand that it immediately make a correction,” said Mun Tae-young, a spokesman for the South Korean Foreign Ministry. “We will take decisive actions against any attempt to damage our territorial rights.”
Ambassador Kwon Chul-hyun will return to South Korea after making a protest to the Japanese government.
South Korea’s foreign minister, Yu Myung-hwan, summoned Ambassador Toshinori Shigeie of Japan to express Seoul’s outrage, the ministry said.
A group of senior members of President Lee’s governing Grand National Party flew by helicopter to the set of islets, called Dokdo in Korea and Takeshima in Japan. They met with a contingent of South Korean police officers stationed there and read a statement denouncing Japan.
Another group of legislators held a protest rally in front of the Japanese Embassy in central Seoul. The police increased security in the neighborhood.
Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, Nobutaka Machimura, in a statement quoted by Reuters, said that South Korea was an important neighbor for Japan. “We want to avoid a situation where Japan-South Korea relations are influenced by each and every issue and I hope both sides will calmly respond,” he said, according to Reuters.
The islets lie in the body of water between the two countries, known as the Sea of Japan to the Japanese and the East Sea to the South Koreans.
The dispute over the largely uninhabited volcanic outcroppings has troubled bilateral relations for years, a testament to the instability and tension stemming from the region’s violent, early-20th-century history.
South Korea has recalled ambassadors only four times in its history — three times from Japan.