Seoul: South Korea on Thursday formally rejected Japan`s proposal to refer their territorial dispute over a pair of South Korean-controlled islets to the International Court of Justice for a ruling on sovereignty
The South Korean Foreign Ministry handed over a diplomatic document to that effect to a senior Japanese embassy official at the ministry.
Yonhap News Agency quoted the document as saying "no territorial disputes exist" regarding the rocky outcrops known to South Koreans as Dokdo and asserting they are South Korean territory historically, geographically and under international laws.
The document was in reply to a diplomatic document Japan sent South Korea on August 21 formally proposing the two sides jointly refer to the ICJ their territorial dispute over the islets, which are known to Japanese as Takeshima.
Japan had made the same proposal twice previously, in 1954 and in 1962, with the same result.
South Korea`s position is that there exists no territorial dispute with Japan over the isles in question.
Japanese officials recently indicated that if Seoul were to formally reject Tokyo`s proposal to refer the dispute to the ICJ jointly, Tokyo would do so unilaterally.
The ICJ, however, has jurisdiction over a dispute only when the parties to the dispute have agreed to bring the case to the court.
Japan-South Korea diplomatic ties have deteriorated to the lowest level in years following South Korean President Lee Myung Bak`s unprecedented visit on August 10 to the disputed islets.
That prompted Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda to send Lee a letter in which he protested the trip and called for the territorial dispute to be referred to the ICJ.
But South Korea refused to accept Noda`s letter.
Last Friday, Noda held a press conference at which he accused South Korea of having "illegally" occupied the islands since the 1950s. He urged that the issue be resolved on the principles of "law and justice" on the international stage.
The two volcanic islets and the numerous small reefs around them have a combined area of only 0.21 square kilometres and are located in the Sea of Japan, which Koreans calls the East Sea.
The two countries have been contesting ownership over the islets since the early 1950s, which culminated in South Korea dispatching a permanent battalion there in 1954.
Since then, South Korea has kept security personnel stationed there and constructed lodgings, a monitoring facility, a lighthouse, and port and docking facilities. (Kyodo)