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Thursday, Sep. 6, 2012

Experts counsel calm diplomacy over South Korea isle row

Staff writer

Levelheaded diplomacy between Japan and South Korea will be key to sorting out the tension over the disputed islets in the Sea of Japan, experts said Wednesday in Tokyo.

News photo
Midsea outpost: South Korean President Lee Myung Bak greets a security guard during his visit to the disputed Takeshima Islands in the Sea of Japan on Aug. 10. AFP-JIJI

Taking part in a panel discussion at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan, former diplomat Kazuhiko Togo urged Seoul and Tokyo to discuss their grievances issue face to face.

"(Seoul) must change its attitude that there is no territorial dispute," Togo said.

Osaka City University professor Park Il, a third-generation Korean in Japan, said Japan also should think twice before further fueling the dispute, such as by scrapping the bilateral currency swap agreement. "Such an act won't help either side," the expert on Korean politics warned.

The row over the South-controlled islets reached a new level of tension last month when South Korean President Lee Myung Bak visited the territory, known as Takeshima in Japan and Dokdo in South Korea.

The two questioned Lee's act, with Park saying it was "regrettable" and Togo calling the visit "too much" for the Japanese public.

On Lee's recent demand that Emperor Akihito "apologize" for Japan's wartime atrocities against Koreans before considering visiting South Korea, Togo feared of a backlash. "The stronger the pressure (from overseas), the stronger rightwingers (in Japan) will get," he warned.

Park added that Lee's comment on the Emperor "only amplifies the nationalism among some in Japan."

"We need to bring back a quiet diplomacy and cool-headed discussion" to resolve the territorial dispute, Park added.

Noda to skip Lee chat


Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda plans to skip a one-on-one meeting with South Korean President Lee Myung Bak on the sidelines of the APEC summit this weekend amid heightened tensions over a territorial row, government sources said.

However, arrangements are being made for Noda to meet with Chinese President Hu Jintao during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum summit in Vladivostok, Russia, despite an intensifying sovereignty dispute over Japan-controlled islets in the East China Sea.

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The Japan Times

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