South Korea’s Lee Myung-Bak Visits Disputed Islands
South Korea’s president is visiting islands also claimed by Japan, in a move set to raise diplomatic tensions.
Lee Myung-bak flew to the islands, which are known as Dokdo in South Korea and as Takeshima in Japan.
A Kyodo news agency report said Japan had recalled its ambassador from South Korea.
Both South Korea and Japan say they have a historical claim to the islands, and the issue has been a long-standing thorn in relations.
The islands, which are roughly equidistant from the two countries, are small but lie in fishing grounds which could also contain large gas deposits.
The Japanese government’s response has been swift - Tokyo has summoned the South Korean ambassador and recalled its own envoy from Seoul.
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.
Japan has a number of territorial rows, with China and Russia as well as South Korea, and they tend to attract considerable public attention.
South Korea has stationed a small coastguard detachment on the islands since 1954.