Seoul protest over islet claim in Japan textbooks

SEOUL, March 30 - South Korea protested Wednesday after Japan authorised new school textbooks that describe a disputed cluster of rocky islets as Japanese-owned.

The outcrops in the Sea of Japan (East Sea) are known as Dokdo in South Korea and Takeshima in Japan, and administered by Seoul, but Tokyo on Wednesday authorised a dozen school textbooks asserting its claim.

Seoul says the islets "clearly belong to us, historically, geographically and lawfully" and the foreign ministry said in a statement: "We strongly protest Japan's approval of the textbooks and urge immediate corrections.

"Dokdo is our territory over which we are firmly exercising sovereign rights... The government has a firm stance that we will sternly deal with any attempts by Japan to undermine our territorial rights over Dokdo," it said.

A foreign ministry spokesman said the ministry would call in the Japanese ambassador to Seoul, Masatoshi Muto, to convey a message of protest.

Approval for the textbooks was seen by many South Koreans as a "slap in the face" as it came amid outpourings of sympathy and support for their former colonial ruler over its devastating earthquake and tsunami, Yonhap news agency said.

Bitter feelings still linger among many Koreans over Japan's harsh 1910-45 colonial rule over the Korean peninsula, with the territorial dispute a legacy of the period.

Seoul plans to reinforce its sovereignty over the islets, Yonhap said, with measures under consideration including repairing an aged heliport at Dokdo and building a breakwater there.