October 1, 2019 / 6:24 AM / 14 days ago

Factbox: Disputed isles at centre of feud between Japan, South Korea

TOKYO/SEOUL (Reuters) - A South Korean fighter jet conducted a patrol flight over islands at the centre of a territorial dispute with Japan, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said on Tuesday, the latest escalation of a bitter feud over history, trade and territory.

FILE PHOTO : A set of remote islands called Dokdo in Korean and Takeshima in Japanese is seen in this picture taken from a helicopter carrying South Korean President Lee Myung-bak (not pictured), east of Seoul August 10, 2012. REUTERS/The Blue House/Handout/File Photo

Below are key facts about the disputed islands, known as Dokdo in Korea and Takeshima in Japan.

The islands row has heated up amid a fierce dispute over compensation for Koreans forced to work in Japanese firms’ mines and factories during World War Two.

WHAT AND WHERE

There are two main volcanic islands and numerous smaller islets about equidistant from Japan and South Korea in the Sea of Japan and have a total land area of just under 0.20 square kilometres.

The cluster lies in fertile fishing grounds and may sit above enormous deposits of natural gas hydrate that could be worth billions of dollars, Seoul has said.

The place is controlled by South Korea, with 25 guards and three lighthouse keepers currently stationed there.

COMPETING CLAIMS

The dispute is deeply emotional for Koreans, who say the islands have been recorded as being part of Korean territory since the year 512 and were the first pieces of their territory seized by Japan when it started its 1910-1945 colonial reign over the peninsula.

South Korea has built lodgings, lighthouses and a monitoring facility on the islands despite repeated protests by Japan.

Japan insists the islands were never a part of Korea to begin with, so they were not returned when Tokyo relinquished its claims to the peninsula after its defeat in World War Two.

Japan says it had established sovereignty over the islands by the mid-17th century when they were a stop-over point for its fishermen, and were incorporated into Shimane Prefecture in 1905, when South Korea became a Japanese protectorate.

Tokyo says the 1951 San Francisco Peace Treaty confirmed Japanese sovereignty after World War Two.

North Korea also claims sovereignty over the islands.

PAST INCIDENTS

Japan has proposed at least three times since 1954 that the dispute be referred to the International Court of Justice, but Seoul has rejected those proposals.

In 2005, Shimane Prefecture passed a law designating Feb. 22 as “Takeshima Day”, despite efforts at the time by Japan’s central government to get local authorities to drop the plan.

Tensions over the islands flared in 2008 after Japan said it would write about the issue in its school textbooks.

In August 2012, then-South Korean president Lee Myung-bak became the country’s first leader to visit the islands, prompting Tokyo to recall its ambassador. Since then, South Korean government officials and lawmakers have made the trip, including then-opposition leader Moon in July, 2016.

In August, South Korean forces began two days of expanded drills around the islands, prompting a protest from Tokyo only days after Seoul said it would scrap an intelligence-sharing pact with its neighbour.

Reporting by Linda Sieg in Tokyo and Sangmi Cha in Seoul; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan

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