S. Korea's Lee visits disputed islets despite Japan's protests
South Korean President Lee Myung-bak paid a landmark visit Friday to a set of disputed islets claimed by both South Korea and Japan, an unprecedented trip that raised Tokyo's ire. The president visited the lonely East Sea outcroppings known as Dokdo here and Takeshima in Japan after a stop on the nearby Ulleung Island, some 90 kilometers west of the disputed islets, according to his office.
A self-professed pragmatist, Lee had largely avoided clashing headlong with Japan on outstanding historical issues even when the public sentiment at home dictated otherwise. The trip, which made Lee the first South Korean leader to set foot on the islets coveted for rich mineral resources in its surrounding waters, came only four months before voters elect his successor.
It also came just a few days before South Korea celebrates the 67th anniversary of its independence from the Japanese colonial rule.
Lying equidistant between South Korea and Japan, the sparsely inhabited islets have been a chronic source of diplomatic row.
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