SEOUL -- South Korea on Tuesday lodged a strong protest with Japan after the Japanese education ministry approved history textbooks for elementary schools that describe a pair of South Korea-controlled islets claimed by Japan as Japanese territory.
Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister Yu Myung Hwan summoned Japanese Ambassador to South Korea Toshinori Shigeie to his office to deliver the protest and demand that Japan retract the approval of the five textbooks, one of which claims that South Korea "illegally occupies" the islets.
In the 15-minute meeting, Yu warned that the issue could seriously strain South Korea's relations with Japan at a time when emotions in the country are already running high with this year marking the 100th anniversary of the start of Japan's 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula, Yonhap News Agency reported, citing a foreign ministry official.
Shigeie was quoted as saying both countries need to make sure that the issue does not adversely affect overall relations.
Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministry spokesman Kim Young Sun said in a statement that Dokto, as the isles are known to Koreans, "is our integral territory in terms of historical, geographical and international laws."
"We express deep concern that these distorted history textbooks can give a wrong view of history to Japan's future generations and negatively affect the 'future-oriented' relations between Korea and Japan," Kim said.
The islets, known as Takeshima to the Japanese, are located in the Sea of Japan, which South Korea calls the East Sea. The combined area of the two islets and numerous small reefs around them is only 0.21 square kilometers.
The Japanese Foreign Ministry says that South Korea's control of the islands constitutes "an illegal occupation undertaken on absolutely no basis in international law."
It has proposed in the past that the bilateral territorial dispute be submitted to the International Court of Justice.