A U.S. government naming agency has reversed its decision over the sovereignty of the remote South Korean islets of Dokdo, redefining the islets as South Korean one week after having recategorized them as being of "undesignated sovereignty" to reflect Japan's claim.
The Web site of the Board on Geographic Names (BGN) reinstated South Korea's sovereignty early Thursday morning (Korean Standard Time), just hours after U.S. President George W. Bush ordered that recognition of South Korea's sovereignty over Dokdo be restored in the BGN's database.
"I asked Condi Rice to review it, and the database will be restored (to) where it was seven days ago," Bush said in a joint interview with reporters from South Korea, China and Thailand just days before his departure on a tour of the three Asian nations.
Bush is scheduled to meet with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak in Seoul next week to discuss cementing ties between the two allies. Bush will be on his way to Beijing to attend the Aug. 8 opening ceremonies of the Olympics.
Lsst week, the BGN changed Dokdo's status from South Korean territory to "undesignated sovereignty" on its Web site, infuriating South Koreans, who still harbor bitter memories of Japan's brutal colonial rule over Korea from 1910 to 1945.
Dennis Wilder, a White House Asia adviser, told reporters that ``a very high-level'' South Korean government official contacted the Bush administration about the decision. Bush asked Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to look into the matter, Wilder said, and the United States determined that the change ``was not warranted at this time.''
``We regret that this change in designation was perceived by South Koreans as some sort of change in our policy,'' Wilder was quoted as saying by The Associated Press.
South Korea's Ambassador to Washington Lee Tae-sik said, "President Bush instructed that (the database) be reinstated to the state before the Dokdo dispute occurred," adding that Bush "himself made the decision and ordered that the decision be implemented immediately."
Lee said Bush's decision was conveyed to him by Deputy National Security Advisor James F. Jeffrey.
South Korea welcomed the Bush administration's renewed support for Seoul's control of Dokdo, a cluster of rocky islets in the East Sea that are also claimed by Japan.
"We welcome the U.S. decision and appraise it highly," Foreign Ministry spokesman Moon Tae-young was quoted as saying. He said his ministry will reveal a more concrete stance on the U.S. decision in a formal statement to be issued later in the day.