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ROK Leader Slams Japan As Ties Sour

The Republic of Korea (ROK) will "do everything it can" to reverse what it alleges are Japan's attempts to justify its past colonial rule, ROK President Roh Moo-hyun said Wednesday in his strongest statement yet over disputed territories and school textbooks.

Tokyo-Seoul relations have soured in recent weeks as a local Japanese assembly designated a special day to mark Japan's claim to small islands that lie between the two countries and are also claimed by the ROK.

Koreans - who were under Japanese colonial rule during 1910-45 - are also harshly critical of Japan's history textbooks, which they say whitewash the country's wartime past.

"We have come to a situation where (these actions) can no longer be overlooked," Roh wrote yesterday in a message addressed to the citizens.

ROK Government "can no longer overlook (Japan's) move to justify its history of invasion and occupation and its intention to realize hegemonism again," Roh said in the message, posted on his website. "The government will do everything it can," he said, first asking Japan to correct its recent acts.

However, Roh said he was "doubtful of a sincere response from the Japanese Government" to his demand. He did not specify what actions Seoul would take if it was unsatisfied with Japan's reaction, but vowed to keep pushing until his demands are met.

Japan's territorial claim to the islets - called Dokdo in the ROK and Takeshima in Japan - has stirred up deep-rooted ROK sentiments against Japan.

Police are heavily guarding the Japanese Embassy in Seoul to protect it from attacks by local protesters, who converge almost daily at the building.

The islets and history textbooks are only the most recent flash points between the two countries.

Tokyo and Seoul have also sparred over Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's annual visits to a Tokyo war shrine that critics say glorifies Japan's militarist past.

Roh criticized the visits yesterday as a practice that "damages the truth of apologies by past Japanese leaders."

The president also said earlier this month that Japan should compensate thousands of Koreans who were forced into labor or sexual slavery for Japan's World War II army.

Roh is the first ROK head of state to call for reparations from Japan in recent years. Previously, the ROK shied away from the issue because the two governments officially settled all compensation claims when they established diplomatic ties in 1965.

(China Daily March 24, 2005)


ROK Issues New Principles over Ties with Japan
ROK Slams Japan's Bill on Disputed Islets
ROK to Treat Dokdo Island Solemnly
ROK Postpones Indefinitely FM's Japan Visit
Court Ruling Outlaws Koizumi's Shrine Visits
Textbooks Spark Further Disquiet
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