Japan stages rally over disputed islands with S. Korea

TOKYO - Japan held an annual rally on Saturday marking Tokyo's claim to a set of tiny islands controlled by South Korea, further fuelling a long-standing territorial row between the neighbours.

Some 500 people gathered at the event in Shimane prefecture in western Japan, including a high-ranking Japanese government official as well as local and national politicians, organisers said.

Tokyo refers to the islands in the Sea of Japan (East Sea) as Takeshima, while they are known as Dokdo in South Korea.

Yoshitami Kameoka, a parliamentary secretary in Tokyo's Cabinet Office, attended the event representing the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the organisers said.

"Takeshima is an integral part of our country," Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said in Tokyo on Friday, adding that Kameoka's attendance at the rally was aimed at stressing the Japanese stance on the issue.

Relations between the two countries have regularly been strained by the territorial dispute and other issues arising from Japan's 1910-45 colonial rule over the Korean peninsula.

Tensions were strained in 2012 following a surprise visit by South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak to the island chain.

Tokyo is embroiled in separate territorial spats with China and Russia.

Japan's conservative premier has yet to hold a summit with South Korean President Park Geun-Hye since he took office in December 2012.