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Japan proposes to avert confrontation over isles

Written by: Staff

TOKYO, Apr 20 (Reuters) Japan has told South Korea that it will not send survey ships near a group of disputed tiny islands if Seoul drops its plan to propose giving Korean names to some places in the area at an international conference in June, a Japanese government source said today.

Japan's proposal was designed to avert a possible confrontation between the two Asian neighbours over the desolate islands located about the same distance from the mainlands of both countries.

''We told the South Korean side that Japan will not carry out a maritime survey if South Korea promises not to propose giving Korean names to the disputed area,'' a Japanese government source told Reuters.

He said, however, that Seoul had yet to respond to the Japanese proposal.

An international conference on appellation of the ocean floor is expected to open in Germany in June.

Japan wanted to carry out a maritime topographical survey near the disputed isles to make counter proposals if South Korea were to insist on giving Korean names to some places in the area during the June conference, the Japanese government source said.

Yesterday South Korea ordered a show of force in its dispute with Japan over the tiny islands, placing its Coast Guard on high alert, sending 20 vessels to the area and telling Japan to stay away.

The Seoul government demanded Japan scrap a proposed maritime survey near the islets, saying it would take ''stern measures'' if Tokyo failed to act appropriately.

An official of the South Korean Coast Guard said by telephone yesterday that the vessels dispatched included its largest ship, which was joining patrols around the islets which Koreans call Tokto and Japanese call Takeshima.

Japanese Coast Guard officials said two survey ships were mooring near a port on Japan's west coast today. They refused to say when or whether the two vessels would sail close to the disputed islands and conduct a maritime survey.


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