Japanese Abandon Bid to Visit Disputed Islands

Posted August 1st, 2011 at 11:35 am (UTC-5)
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Three Japanese nationalist lawmakers have left South Korea after they were barred from visiting a South Korean island where they intended to emphasize Japan's claim to a group of adjacent islets.

The three members of Japan's opposition Liberal Democratic Party boarded a flight back home from Seoul late Monday. The lawmakers had flown to the South Korean airport earlier in the day despite warnings they would be denied entry by South Korean authorities.

South Korean immigration officials ordered the trio to return to Japan. The legislators initially refused and demanded an explanation, but later agreed to board the flight after a nine-hour standoff.

Japanese lawmakers Yoshitaka Shindo, Tomomi Inada and Masahisa Sato wanted to visit the South Korean island of Ulleung-do, which serves as Seoul's administrative and military base for the disputed islets. South Korea refers to the tiny islands as Dokdo, while Japan calls them Takeshima.

South Korea's foreign ministry said allowing the Japanese lawmakers to visit the island would not have helped bilateral relations, and that there also were security concerns. South Korean protesters tore Japanese flags and set fire to pictures of the legislators outside the Seoul airport.

Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano criticized the entry ban on the lawmakers as unacceptable and asked South Korea to reconsider it.

The islets have been under effective South Korean control since the end of Japanese colonial rule after World War II.

The dispute intensified last month when South Korea's flag carrier Korean Air passed over the islets during a demonstration flight of its new Airbus A380 super-jumbo airliner. Japanese officials called the flight an infringement of Japanese air space and banned foreign ministry officials from using the Korean airline for a month.