S Korea protests Japan's move against Korean Air over disputed islets

15:27, July 14, 2011      

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South Korea on Thursday expressed strong regret over Japan's recent move to advise its foreign ministry officials against flying with Korean Air over the carrier ' s special flight near a set of disputed islets lying halfway between South Korea and Japan.

Japanese foreign ministry has reportedly instructed its officials not to fly with South Korea's flag carrier for a month, in protest against the demonstration flight last month by the airline's first Airbus A380 near the islets.

In response, South Korea demanded Japan immediately withdraw its measure against Korean Air, calling Japan's move " disappointing and very regrettable."

"We see Japan's move as a virtual sanction imposed by the Japanese government against our private corporation, and we therefore take the issue very seriously," foreign ministry spokesman Cho Byung-jae told a news briefing.

"Considering the current relations between the two countries, it is difficult for us to understand that Japan took a punitive measure against a private corporation," he added.

Seoul will "wait and see" how Tokyo responds to its request to retract the measure, the spokesman said.

The islets in the East Sea, known as Dokdo in South Korea and Takeshima in Japan, has been a source of recurring diplomatic row between the two neighbors.

Repeated calls by leaders of the two countries for "forward- looking relations" have always paled in the face of recurrent territorial dispute, which are often quick to stoke up nationalistic sentiment in both countries.

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