April 18, 2006

S.Korea’s Roh to pressure Japan over isles

SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea's president called a meeting
of his ministers on Wednesday to ratchet up pressure on Japan
and counter Tokyo's plans to conduct a maritime survey over a
set of islands at the center of a long-running dispute.

Japan's Coast Guard has said it plans to conduct a survey
of the waters near the islands called Tokto in South Korea and
Takeshima in Japan.

The desolate islands are about same distance from the
mainlands of both countries, and are controlled by South Korea
which has a police presence there.

South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun called a meeting of
ministers handling national security to discuss the issue, an
official of the presidential Blue House said by telephone.

The meeting follows comments Roh made on Tuesday that Seoul
may be prepared to accept a further worsening of ties with
Japan, which had already been strained over what it sees as
Japan's refusal to offer proper contrition for its militarist

"While we took a measured response as part of quiet
diplomacy over several years, Japan has incrementally turned to
a more aggressive position," the president quoted Roh as
telling parliamentary leaders late on Tuesday.

"Therefore, we may have reached the time to decide whether
to continue such a line of response," Roh was quoted as saying.

Alarm in South Korea heightened on Tuesday after Japan's
Kyodo news agency reported a Coast Guard vessel had left the
port of Tokyo on a survey mission that will take it near the
disputed islands, quoting what it called informed sources in

"This may be seen as an attempt by Japan's regime, with its
nationalistic tendency, to try to justify its past history of
aggression and to mount a challenge against future order of
Northeast Asia," Roh said.

South Korea had called on Tokyo to withdraw the plan to
conduct the survey, saying the area was within its exclusive
economic zone.

Japan's Coast Guard has said the survey was part of a
regular series to update charts of the area, and Tokyo's top
government spokesman Shinzo Abe said last week the area was
within the country's exclusive economic zone.