By Kim Sue-young
Japan removed its description of South Korea's easternmost islets of Dokdo as part of its territory in a new educational guidebook for high school teachers set to be released today, Yonhap News reported Thursday, citing a diplomatic source in Seoul.
The controversial guidebook has been closely watched in South Korea, as Tokyo's Education Ministry had previously pushed describing the islets as Japanese sovereign territory in the teaching manual to be used by its high schools over the next decade.
The ministry is said to have eliminated this description of Dokdo following last minute instructions by Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, who has stressed the need for closer relations among Asian nations in his ``fraternity'' campaign.
``The description of Dokdo was dropped from the latest edition of the high school teachers' guidebook. Instead, it adopted an ambiguous expression calling for a deeper understanding of Japan's territorial problems,'' the source said.
After Japan claimed sovereignty over the rocky outcroppings in a guide for middle school teachers in July last year, the government recalled Ambassador to Japan Kwon Chul-hyun and expressed regret. Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan also called in Japanese Ambassador Toshinori Shigeie and delivered a message of protest.
The guide is non-binding but is considered a major influence on textbook contents.
Tokyo laid a similar claim to the islets in 2005 causing then-President Roh Moo-hyun to suspend his shuttle diplomacy with then-Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.
Seoul has stationed a coast guard unit on Dokdo since 1953.
President Lee Myung-bak has called for future-oriented relations with Japan. Seoul-Tokyo ties are often strained by disputes over their shared history that includes the 35-year Japanese colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.
Foreign ministry spokesman Moon Tae-young said any sovereignty claim over Dokdo would negatively affect relations between the two countries.
``However, it is not appropriate to mention anything about the guideline since nothing has been confirmed,'' he said, adding the administration has informed the Japanese government of its stance that the islets are South Korean territory.