Japan is calling on South Korea for a calm response to its supplement to the educational guideline for junior high schools, which refers for the first time to a disputed island claimed by both countries.
Japan's education ministry initially intended to state in the document that the island, called Takeshima in Japan and Dokdo in South Korea, is Japan's inherent territory. But it stopped short of using the phrase out of consideration for South Korea.
The Japanese government is hoping that its latest move will not harm bilateral relations, which have improved since South Korean President Lee Myung Bak took office.
Strained relations may hamper efforts at the six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear disarmament, and efforts to resolve the North's abduction of Japanese nationals.
Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda said Japan must be firm on the territorial issue, but should do all it can so the 2 countries can overcome their differences.
In South Korea, President Lee Myung Bak expressed deep disappointment and regret over Japan's move, and instructed his government to take strict measures. The government has decided to temporarily call back its Ambassador to Japan.
Observers voice concerns that the issue could deal a serious blow to bilateral relations. They say the degree of the impact will depend on how both countries' public react and how the 2 governments handle the matter.
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