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South Korea and Japan sail into territorial dispute

Japan's Coast Guard said Thursday that it had arrested a captain of a South Korean fishing boat after it refused to stop for inspection near rocky islets long claimed by both countries.

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Japan and South Korea sailed into a territorial dispute Thursday when a South Korean fishing vessel veered into disputed waters in the Sea of Japan (also known as the East China Sea).

Japan's Coast Guard said that it arrested the captain of the vessel after it refused to stop for inspection in territory that Japan claims, near rocky islets long claimed by both countries.

In the past, disputes surrounding the islets – known in Korea as Dokdo, and in Japan as Takeshima – have led to spats in the diplomatic arena and protests on the streets of Seoul. Both Japan and South Korea are playing down this incident, but the fact that it occurred relatively close to South Korea's shores has observers worried that this could escalate into an untimely feud capable of overshadowing amicable military talks aimed at tightening ties between the two countries.

"I think it is very important that they work this out if they want to sign the [military] agreement," says Mingi Hyun, a research fellow at the Korea Institute for Maritime Strategy. "It is important that they are able to resolve this issue without much friction."


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