Japan Returns Ambassador to S.Korea Amid Island Dispute

Posted August 22nd, 2012 at 12:30 am (UTC-5)
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Japan is sending its ambassador back to South Korea, one week after recalling him in the wake of an intensifying island dispute between the two Asian neighbors.

Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba said Wednesday the ambassador, Masatoshi Muto, will return to Seoul to help manage the dispute over the islands, known as Takeshima in Japan and Dokdo in Korea.

Tokyo recalled the ambassador last week to protest South Korean President Lee Myung-bak's visit to the strategic islands, which are thought to be surrounded by energy deposits.

Gemba also said Tokyo is considering whether to call off talks between Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and Mr. Lee on the sidelines of an Asia-Pacific Economic Forum next month.

On Tuesday, South Korea dismissed a proposal by Japan to take the decades-old dispute to the International Court of Justice. Seoul's Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan said Tuesday the offer was “not worth considering,” and urged Japan to drop its claim to the islands. Unless both sides agree, the ICJ cannot open a case on the matter.

Tokyo is reportedly considering whether to call off a soon-expiring currency swap deal with South Korea, as well as several other diplomatic or economic measures in response to Mr. Lee's visit to the islands.

The largely uninhabited islands have been under effective South Korean control since the end of Japanese colonial rule after World War Two.