Japan diplomat protests S. Korean visit to Kurils

25th May 2011, Comments 0 comments

Japan's ambassador to Seoul has officially complained about a visit by South Korean lawmakers to a Russian-held island at the heart of a territorial row with Tokyo, an official said Wednesday.

Masatoshi Muto on Tuesday visited Seoul's foreign ministry to express regrets to vice foreign minister Park Suk-Hwan, a foreign ministry official who declined to be named told AFP.

The three lawmakers travelled to Kunashiri island on Tuesday, the first South Korean politicians to land on the southern Kuril chain claimed by both Russia and Japan.

Park told Muto the visit was "a purely personal trip" by opposition party lawmakers and had nothing to do with Seoul's official stance on the territorial dispute, said the official.

The trio also lead a parliamentary committee aimed at reasserting South Korea's sovereignty over a group of small islets in the East Sea (Sea of Japan) controlled by Seoul and claimed by Tokyo.

The islands are known as Dokdo in Korea and Takeshima in Japan.

"It is unacceptable that such a visit was made, particularly by members of South Korea's parliament who are in responsible positions," Japanese Foreign Minister Takeaki Matsumoto said Tuesday.

The southern Kurils have been controlled by Moscow since they were seized by Soviet troops in 1945. The row has prevented the two countries from signing a post-World War II peace treaty and strained relations.

The dispute worsened last November when Dmitry Medvedev became the first Russian president to visit the archipelago, followed by other senior Russian officials.

© 2011 AFP

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