The government of Japan announced [press release] on Saturday that it will file a lawsuit with the International Court of Justice (ICJ) [official website] in The Hague over an ongoing territorial dispute with South Korea concerning a group of islands. The disputed islands, known as Takeshima in Japan and Dokdo in South Korea, are believed to contain valuable natural gas deposits. In order for an ICJ ruling to be enforceable, both parties must agree to be bound by the court's ruling. In the press release, Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba [official profile, in Japanese] called on the government of South Korea to allow the ICJ to adjudicate the dispute:
[I]n the coming days,[Japan] will propose, regarding dispute over Takeshima, to [South Korea's] government to institute proceedings before the International Court of Justice...by a special agreement, and to request Conciliation based on the Exchange of Notes Concerning Settlement of Dispute between Japan and [South Korea]. As [South Korea's] government advocates "Global Korea", if it believes it has justifiable territorial rights over Takeshima, it should accept the Japanese proposal. I would like to strongly request that to [South Korea's] government.South Korea has not yet indicated whether or not it will agree to be bound by the ICJ.
The hostility between Japan and South Korea over the islands escalated last week when South Korea President Lee Myung Bak [official website, in Korean] made a surprise visit to the islands [Al Jazeera 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.