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July 26, 2017

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S. Korea ruling party slams Japan over islands

SEOUL -- South Korea's ruling party hit back at Japan on Sunday in a bitter row over disputed islands, saying any move by Tokyo to take the issue to an international court would be "imprudent."

The territorial row over the Seoul-controlled islands has simmered for decades but erupted again Friday when the South's President Lee Myung-bak visited the volcanic outcrops in the Sea of Japan (East Sea).

An angry Japan recalled its ambassador from Seoul and Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said the trip — the first by a South Korean president — was "extremely deplorable."

Japan's Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba said on Saturday that Tokyo could ask the International Court of Justice to settle the row over the islands, known as Dokdo in Korea and Takeshima in Japan.

The South's ruling New Frontier Party said any such move would be an act of "imprudence" and called on Japan to fully repent its harsh colonial rule over Korea from 1910 to 1945 — a source of resentment among many elderly Koreans.

Hong Il-pyo, a party spokesman, said in a statement quoted by Yonhap news agency that Japan's "preposterous" claim over Dokdo had stirred Koreans' anger.

Hong also cited Japanese school textbooks, which critics say distort history, and Tokyo's refusal to address grievances of elderly Korean women forced into Japanese military brothels during World War II.

"We denounce such attitudes by Japan. And if it continues to lay claim over Dokdo, we cannot but take it as a refusal to abandon Japan's will towards invading Korean territory," Hong said.

Historical disputes continue to mar the two countries' relationship, despite close economic ties and shared concerns over North Korea's missile and nuclear programs.

Japan may find it difficult to bring the island issue to the court, which requires an agreement between the disputing parties to make its ruling binding.

South Korea rejected repeated proposals by Japan in the 1950s and 60s to let the court rule on the issue.

At the London Olympics on Saturday, South Korea's Park Jong-woo was barred from the men's soccer medals ceremony after he celebrated their win over Japan by holding up a banner laying claim to the disputed island chain.

The 23-year-old midfielder was pictured on the pitch with a sign saying, "Dokdo is our land."

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