Rallies in Japan, South Korea over disputed islands

Tokyo - Japan held an annual rally yesterday marking Tokyo's claim to a set of tiny islands controlled by South Korea, further fuelling a long-standing territorial row between the two neighbours.

Some 500 people gathered at the event in Shimane prefecture in western Japan, including a high-ranking Japanese government official as well as local and national politicians, the organisers said.

In Seoul, more than 200 South Koreans from two different groups took turns in staging protests outside the Japanese embassy, shouting slogans and waving banners.

Tokyo refers to the islands in the Sea of Japan (known as East Sea in South Korea) as Takeshima, while they are known as Dokdo in South Korea. The Shimane prefectural government claims that the islands are under its jurisdiction.

Asia Report Dokdo Takeshima microsite

Mr Yoshitami Kameoka, a parliamentary secretary in Tokyo's Cabinet Office, attended the event representing the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the organisers said.

"Takeshima is an integral part of our country," Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said in Tokyo on Friday, adding that Mr Kameoka's attendance at the rally was aimed at stressing the Japanese stance on the issue.

The local government designated Feb 22 as "Takeshima Day" in 2005 to mark the 1905 incorporation of the islands, and has since organised an annual ceremony to commemorate the day.

Meanwhile in Seoul, some 100 South Koreans, who have moved their home addresses to Dokdo, urged Japan to scrap "Takeshima Day" and stop attempts to encroach upon South Korea's territory.

Relations between the two countries have regularly been strained by the territorial dispute and other issues arising from Japan's 1910-45 colonial rule over the Korean peninsula.