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S. Korea lodges protests over Japan's defense report

SEOUL (Kyodo) -- South Korea's Foreign and Defense ministries on Friday summoned Japanese Embassy officials to lodge protests over descriptions in an annual defense report released by the Japanese government earlier in the day.

The ministries took issue with the report's characterization of a South Korean-controlled group of islets as an inherent part of Japan's territory, as well as a reference in the report to South Korea's decision to scrap an intelligence-sharing accord with Japan.

Japan lays claims to the rocky outcroppings, known as Takeshima in Japan and Dokdo in South Korea. South Korea took effective control of the islets in 1954.

The Defense Ministry contended that Seoul's decision in August to terminate the General Security of Military Information Agreement resulted from Japan's unwillingness to work with South Korea to resolve a bilateral trade dispute through dialogue.

The report quoted the Japanese defense minister as calling the South Korean decision "extremely regrettable," and said Japan urges South Korea to "wisely respond to secure appropriate cooperation" among Japan, the United States and South Korea.

The ministry also criticized descriptions in the report regarding a South Korean destroyer's alleged lock-on of its fire-control radar on a Japanese patrol plane last December and Japan's decision not to participate in an international fleet review hosted by South Korea last October.

The report cited the two cases as "negative reactions" by South Korea that are affecting bilateral defense cooperation and exchange.

The ministry called the descriptions deeply regrettable and said they represented Japan's "one-sided claims" and the shifting of blame to South Korea. It called for a revision to the report.

The latest defense report effectively downgraded South Korea's status as an important security cooperation partner, as relations between the two neighbors have sunk to the lowest level in many years over issues of wartime history and compensation.

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