Seoul: South Korea on Monday urged Japan to stop provocations over disputed islets lying halfway between the two countries as Tokyo sent a government official to attend the controversial “Takeshima Day” event.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s cabinet has dispatched a vice ministerial-level official to the event for four straight years. This year, Sakai Yasuyuki, parliamentary vice minister of the cabinet office, attended the ceremony, Xinhua reported.

The Takeshima Day was launched in 2005 by Japan’s Shimane prefecture to lay territorial claims to the disputed islets, known as Dokdo in South Korea and Takeshima in Japan.

Seoul’s foreign ministry spokesman Cho June-Hyuk said in a statement that Seoul strongly protests and calls for the prevention of recurrence over Japan’s repeated dispatch of a senior official to the Takeshima Day event hosted by a provincial government.

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The spokesman denounced the dispatch as a defiance of the agreed efforts to open a new bilateral relation through the accord reached in late 2015 for “comfort women”, an euphemism for Korean women forced into sexual servitude for Japanese military brothels during World War II.

Under the December 28 agreement, Japan renewed an official apology for the wartime sex slavery, pledging to pay 1 billion yen (about $8.3 million) from its state coffers to build a new foundation in South Korea to support the former comfort women.

In return, South Korea agreed on a “final and irreversible” resolution on the issue.

Cho said that the Dokdo islets are clearly an inherent part of South Korea’s territory historically, geographically and by international laws, toward which Tokyo should stop provocations.

He strongly urged the Abe cabinet to humbly and squarely face the Imperial Japan’s history of disseizing the Korean peninsula.

South Korea has said that Japan unilaterally incorporated the Dokdo islets into its territory before and during the 1910-45 Japanese colonial rule of the Korean peninsula.

After Seoul’s liberation from the colonisation, the Dokdo islets were re-incorporated into South Korea’s territory.

Seoul’s foreign ministry summoned a Japanese diplomat in Seoul to protest Japan’s dispatch of a senior government official to the Takeshima Day event.

Lee Sang-deok, director-general in charge of Northeast Asian affairs at South Korea’s foreign ministry, delivered the government’s strong protest against the celebration after summoning Hideo Suzuki, a minister at the Japanese embassy in Seoul.

Hundreds of South Korean civic group activists gathered in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, denouncing the Takeshima Day celebrations and calling for Japan to scrap the history-distorting event.

The rocky outcroppings have been a major source of diplomatic rows and even emotional battle both between the general public and governments of Seoul and Tokyo. South Korea has deployed security guards on the islets since 1954.

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