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SEOUL: A group of South Korean lawmakers yesterday visited an isolated set of islands at the centre of a territorial dispute with Japan -- prompting an immediate protest from Tokyo.
Seventeen members of the parliamentary National Defence Committee flew to the Dokdo islands (known as Takeshima in Japan) on military helicopters for a day-long visit, an aide to committee member Han Ki-Ho said.
The trip -- described as a government inspection session -- was aimed at checking security measures around the islands which are guarded by the South’s coastguard, the aide said.
A picture released by the committee showed the lawmakers shouting slogans reading “Dokdo is our land. We will defend it”.
Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura, who on Monday had urged the Seoul MPs to cancel their trip, said it was “extremely regrettable” that his call had gone unheeded.
“We strongly protest it and we are urging South Korea to prevent future incidents,” he said.
The islands, which lie between the two countries, are controlled by South Korea but claimed by both nations.
The longstanding row over ownership boiled over in August when South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak made a surprise visit to the islets.