Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda [official profile] on Friday signed a resolution [Xinhua.net report] describing South Korea's control of islands in the Sea of Japan as an "illegal occupation." The resolution also calls for South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak [official website, in Korean] to apologize and renounce comments he made during an August 15 surprise visit [Al Jazeera report] to the disputed island territory. These comments included a request for Japan's Emperor Akihito to apologize for the nation's occupation of the Korean penninsula during World War II. The disputed islands, known as Takeshima in Japan and Dokdo in South Korea, are believed to contain valuable natural gas deposits. Noda has threatened to refuse to meet with Myung-Bak at the of the Asia- Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) [official website] summit in Vladivostok set for September.
The hostility between Japan and South Korea over the islands escalated since Myung-Bak made his surprise visit to the islands last week. On Monday, the government of Japan announced [JURIST report] that it will file a lawsuit with the International Court of Justice (ICJ) [official website] in The Hague over the ongoing territorial dispute. South Korea immediately rejected the proposal [JURIST report]. In March 2005 Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi Junichiro [official profile] mentioned [JURIST report] that the ICJ could be a good forum for resolving the dispute over the islands. Earlier in March 2005 a Japanese prefecture approved a symbolic resolution [JURIST report] calling for the creation of "Takeshima Day" to celebrate Japan's alleged sovereignty over the islands.