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Key facts over disputed islands

Published: 7:04PM Wednesday March 16, 2005 Source: Reuters

South Korea and Japan claim a group of desolate volcanic islets Seoul calls Tokto and Japan calls Takeshima. The islets are situated about 220 km (140 miles) from the nearest cities on both of their mainlands.

Following are some key facts and positions on the islands:

Geography

The rocky outcrops are located in the Sea of Japan, which South Korea calls the East Sea. They are about 220 km (140 miles) east of the eastern Korean port city of Samchok and about the same distance north-west of the western Japan city of Matsue.

There are two main islets. The west islet is about 95,000 sq. metres (23.5 acres) and the east islet is about 67,000 sq metres (16.6 acres).

There are also 32 reefs and small, rocky outcrops.

Claims and benefits

The most recent dispute over the islets stretches back to the end of World War Two, when Japan was expelled as the colonial power presiding over the Korean Peninsula.

The area around the islets has fertile fishing grounds and may have undersea mineral deposits. Possession of the islands could also extend nautical territory.

Korean claims

Seoul says the islands have been recorded as being a part of Korean territory since 512.

It says that Japan claimed the islands as part of its Shimane Prefecture when Korea was forced into being a protectorate of Japan in 1905. It said the 1951 San Francisco Peace Treaty implies that the islands were returned to Korea.

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

"Korea's sovereignty over Tokto is so complete, both de jure and de facto, that it cannot be shaken by any unfounded claims," is the position of the South Korean government.

"Tokto is part of the inalienable land of Korea," is the position of the North Korean government.

Japanese claims

Tokyo says although it gave up all territorial rights to Korea under the San Francisco Peace Treaty, the islands were not included as part of Korea.

Japan also says it effectively governed the islands by the mid-17th century when they were used as a stop-over point for Japanese fishermen.

"Takeshima is clearly part of our nation's territory, historically and also under international law," the Foreign Ministry says on its Web site, adding that South Korea has not presented clear evidence to prove that it had effectively ruled the islands before Japan had.

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