The government of South Korea on Tuesday rejected a proposal [press release] by Japan to have the International Court of Justice (ICJ) [official website] resolve an ongoing territorial dispute between the two countries regarding a group of islands to which each nation claims possession. The islands, known as Takeshima in Japan and Dokdo in South Korea, are believed to contain valuable natural gas deposits. On Saturday Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba [official website] urged [JURIST report] South Korea to allow the ICJ to resolve the dispute. In the press release, the South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade [official website] dismissed Japan's request to allow the ICJ to adjudicate the dispute, saying that the islands were indisputably part of South Korea:
Dokdo is clearly an integral part of Korean territory, historically, geographically, and under international law, there is no territorial dispute over it, and as such, the [g]overnment of [South] Korea makes it clear that the Japanese [g]overnment's proposal to refer the issue over Dokdo to the International Court of Justice is not even worthy of consideration.Japan has not yet responded to South Korea's rejection of its proposal.
The hostility between Japan and South Korea over the islands escalated last week when South Korean 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.