Japan and South Korea were heading for a diplomatic showdown on Friday, after Lee Myung-bak became the first sitting South Korean president to visit a group of islands at the centre of a decades-old territorial dispute. Lee, who will step down as president later this year, ignored calls from Japanese leaders to cancel the trip to one of the islands that make up the Takeshima chain, known as Dokdo among Koreans. After arriving by helicopter from the nearby island of Ulleungdo, Lee said that South Korea “must continue to protect its territory”. He left the island later in the afternoon and was due to speak to reporters on his return to Seoul. Lee’s visit drew an angry response from Japan, which insists the islands, which lie roughly equidistant between the two countries in the Japan Sea – or the East Sea according to Koreans – are an integral part of its territory. In Tokyo, the government’s chief spokesman, Osamu Fujimura, described Lee’s visit as “extremely regrettable”. Later, the government said it was ordering its ambassador in Seoul, Masatoshi Muto, to return to Tokyo to discuss the dispute. Japan’s foreign minister, Koichiro Gemba, said the visit would have a big impact… Read full this story
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