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Japan, S. Korea to jointly survey disputed waters

Written by: Staff
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TOKYO, Sep 11 (Reuters) Japan and South Korea have agreed to conduct a joint survey for radioactive waste in waters between the two countries that have been the subject of a territorial dispute, a senior Japanese diplomat was quoted today.

Kyodo news agency quoted Vice Foreign Minister Shotaro Yachi as telling a news conference that Tokyo and Seoul have agreed to conduct the joint survey in October in six locations including waters around desolate islands claimed by both countries.

Tensions have flared in the past year and a half over the islands -- called Takeshima in Japan and Tokto in South Korea -- and the two countries failed to bridge their differences in two days of talks last week over redrawing a sea border.

Plans by Japan to conduct a maritime survey near the islands in April led South Korea to dispatch about 20 coast guard vessels to head off the survey ship, while South Korea sent a survey vessel near the islands in July, inviting protests from Tokyo.

Japan has said the survey for radioactivity has been carried out every year since 1994 to research maritime contamination in response to fears over nuclear waste believed to have been dumped by the Soviet Union and Russia in the past.

South Korea controls and maintains a police presence on the islands that lie about the same distance from the mainland of Japan and South Korea.

They are situated in rich fishing grounds and above deposits of gas hydrate -- a crystalline solid rich in methane -- which Seoul's state gas company said could be worth billions of dollars.

Seoul is also deeply motivated by rancour over Japan's 1910-1945 rule over the peninsula. It says Japan's claims to the islands are an attempt to revert to its past militarist tendencies.

REUTERS BDP BS1626

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