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Japan returns ambassador to S. Korea, calls island control 'illegal' (2)

(Xinhua)

14:25, August 23, 2012

Both Gemba and Defense Minister Satoshi Morimoto used the expression "illegal occupation" for the first time since the ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) took power in 2009 -- marking a volitional change in the severity of language used by the Japanese government to describe its stance on the territorial dispute.

In contrast, one week ago Gemba had called for calm responses from both sides and urged South Korea not to "fan the flames of nationalism."

Gemba's remarks Wednesday came after South Korea swiftly rejected Japan's proposal to South Korea to take the island row to the ICJ to seek resolution on the issue.

South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan stated that the proposal from Japan is "not worth consideration," and warned that South Korea will take stern measures against Japan if it " continues to raise any unjustified issue over the islets," according to local media reports.

Gemba also rapped Kim for echoing remarks made by South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, calling for Japan's Emperor Akihito to apologize for the nation's past colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula if he were to visit South Korea.

Lee's comments were made on the back of an unprecedented visit by a South Korean president to the islands just days before the August 15 anniversary of Japan's World War II surrender, which ended its 35-year colonial rule over the Korean Peninsular.

"If Japan's Emperor wishes to visit South Korea, I think it would be good if he apologizes sincerely to those who passed away while fighting for independence," Lee was quoted as saying following his trip to the contested islands.

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