Thu, Aug 03, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Japan to survey disputed waters

AGENCIES , TOKYO AND SEOUL

Japan has informed South Korea of a planned radioactive waste survey near the disputed islets in the Sea of Japan, a Japanese Foreign Ministry official said yesterday.

The survey scheduled from late this month to early next month will inspect the effects of radioactive waste in waters near Vladivostok in Russia, the source quoted by Kyodo News Agency said.

Japan gave an advance notice to South Korea, following a proposal that the two nations warn each other of any oceanic research near the group of islets, called Takeshima in Japan and Dokdo in South Korea.

South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-Moon did not indicate the exact area where the survey for radioactive pollution would be conducted, or when Japan plans the mission.

"The Japanese government has recently notified us that it plans to conduct a survey for radioactive pollution in the East Sea [Sea of Japan] at an appropriate time," Ban told reporters.

"It is the clear position of our government that if Japan wants to conduct a maritime survey in our EEZ [Exclusive Economic Zone], it must seek our government's authorization," he said.

The EEZs that both of the two nations claim overlap in the waters near the islets.

Japan's research sites are said to be in the South Korean-claimed zone, the source said.

South Korea, Japan, Russia and the International Atomic Energy Agency conducted a joint survey in 1994 to find abnormalities caused by the waste. But Tokyo and Seoul have continued with similar surveys every year. South Korea's Yonhap new agency said that from the 1950s to the 1990s, the Soviet Union and then Russia dumped nuclear waste in waters off of Vladivostock.

The two nations resumed bilateral discussions on the exclusive economic zone in early June, when South Korea rejected Japan's proposal to give advance notice for the survey. Seoul conducted a maritime survey last month in the zone claimed by the Japanese despite Tokyo's strong protest.

South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki Moon is expected to meet Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso next week.

The two officials are to mainly discuss North Korea's recent missile launches, but they also plan to talk about ways to improve deteriorating bilateral relations.

The two countries have seen their ties strained over the past year over the island dispute. Some analysts have said the row has affected Seoul and Tokyo's efforts to bring North Korea back to talks aimed at ending Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program.

Japan's top government spokesman said Japan had the right to do surveys near the islands.

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