A senior Japanese government official has pledged to continue efforts to resolve a territorial dispute with South Korea over the Takeshima Islands in the Sea of Japan. South Korea controls the islands. Japan claims them.
Cabinet Office Parliamentary Vice-Minister Hiroshi Ando was speaking at an event on Friday to mark Japan's incorporation of the islands into Shimane Prefecture on February 22nd, 1905.
In 2005, Shimane Prefecture designated the date as Takeshima Day, and has since held a commemorative ceremony every year.
This year's event took place in the prefectural capital Matsue, with relations between Japan and South Korea strained over historical matters including a wartime labor issue. Some 460 people took part.
Ando, who is in charge of territorial matters, said it is clear that the Takeshima issue is a problem that goes to the very foundations of a nation.
He said he will work even harder with local government officials to promote a correct understanding of Japan's stance on the issue at home and abroad.
Shimane Governor Zembee Mizoguchi also spoke at the ceremony. He said South Korea is stepping up its efforts to establish its control over the islands as fact.
He said talks between the governments of Japan and South Korea are essential to resolve the issue.
He called on the central government to keep discussing the matter with Seoul at the negotiation table.
The Japanese government maintains the Takeshima Islands are an inherent part of Japan's territory. It says South Korea is illegally occupying them.
Kim Yong-kil, the South Korean Foreign Ministry's Northeast Asia Affairs Bureau chief, lodged a protest over the ceremony with Koichi Mizushima, a minister at the Japanese Embassy in Seoul.
A statement by the South Korean Foreign Ministry demands that Japan's government immediately stop all provocations over the islands, calling them an integral part of South Korean territory historically, geographically and under international law.