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S.Korea sends 20 coast guard vessels to disputed islands

By Staff
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SEOUL, Apr 19 (Reuters) South Korea ordered a show of force today in its dispute with Japan over a group of tiny islands, placing its Coast Guard on high alert and sending 20 vessels to the area.

A South Korean Coast Guard official said by telephone that the vessels dispatched included the 5,000-tonne Sambong, which was joining patrols around the islets, which the Koreans call Tokto and the Japanese Takeshima.

Seoul has demanded that Tokyo scrap a proposed maritime survey of waters in the area.

South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun called a meeting of key ministers today to draw up measures if Japan went ahead with the survey.

''At this morning's national security ministers' meeting chaired by President Roh Moo-hyun, we reaffirmed our position to respond sternly to Japan's plan to conduct a maritime survey inside our exclusive economic zone,'' Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon told a news conference.

REUTERS SRS DS1403

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