Japan will officially propose to South Korea later Tuesday that the two sides ask the International Court of Justice to settle a long-running island dispute, the government said.
Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has also told ministers to find other ways to deal with the disagreement over islets known as Takeshima in Japan and Dokdo in Korea, with Seoul expected to reject such a proposal.
“President Lee Myung-Bak and his cabinet members’ landing on Takeshima does not fit with our policy and it is extremely regrettable,” Noda told a meeting of ministers, including the foreign and finance ministers.
“We must take a firm stance on this. We must consider possible measures that we may take in the future,” he said.
Lee visited the Seoul-controlled islands on August 10, winning plaudits at home but sending relations with Japan plunging.
South Korea rejected proposals by Japan in 1954 and 1962 to seek a ruling from the Hague-based ICJ, the main judicial body of the United Nations.
Seoul quickly dismissed renewed talk of going to the ICJ and reiterated its claim to the islands.
“Dokdo is Korea’s territory historically, geographically and under international law and a territorial dispute does not exist,” said South Korean foreign ministry spokesman Cho Tai-Younghe.
“Therefore, Japan’s proposal to go to the ICJ is not even worth consideration.”
Cho said Seoul would receive any diplomatic missive from Tokyo but would send a similar note back firmly stating its position.
In a bid to pressure South Korea, Tokyo has been considering a review of its currency swap agreement with South Korea.
Under the current deal, the two nations can exchange up to $70 billion worth of dollars, South Korean won and Japanese yen, a scheme designed to prevent financial crisis.
The swap accord was originally designed for Japan to help South Korea withstand instability on the financial markets, according to Japanese media.
It was not clear, however, how important the mechanism currently is to South Korea, nor what impact any review would have.