By Kim Young-jin
North Korea on Monday criticized President Lee Myung-bak for his surprise visit to Dokdo last week ― the nation’s easternmost islets ― that ratcheted up tensions with Japan.
In a dispatch, Pyongyang’s state media accused Lee of trying to stave off his status as a lame-duck president by politically exploiting the issue of the rocky outcrops that Seoul holds control over but Tokyo lays claim to. It said Lee was covering up for what it deemed as his favorable stance to Japan.
The visit was "intended to cover up his true colors as a pro-Japanese lackey, calm down the angry public and weather his ruling crisis," the Korean Central News Agency said.
Lee, in the face of two North Korean provocations in 2010, has bolstered trilateral cooperation with Tokyo and Washington.
The North has not relented in its harsh criticism of Lee’s administration, with which it has held frosty relations since 2008. Analysts say this is likely to continue as the presidential elections scheduled for December approach, with Pyongyang trying to nudge voters here towards a left-leaning candidate.
The North also lashed out at Japan, calling its claim over the islets “imprudent.” Both Koreas view the claim as a legacy of Japan’s 1910-1945 colonial rule over the peninsula.
"Regarding the territorial issue directly related to national dignity, no concession nor compromise can be made," a statement on a North Korean propaganda Web site Uriminzokkiri said.
Lee’s move drew immediate ire from Tokyo, which says it will take the issue to the International Court of Justice.
Cheong Wa Dae defended the trip Monday saying it had been planned for years. He put the impetus on resolving the issue on Tokyo, saying that as a big country, it could do so easily.
Lee’s trip, which ended decades of “quiet diplomacy” over the matter, was met with a lukewarm response in the South, with critics saying the bold gesture came too late in Lee’s term or that it was done to buoy his power as his five-year term winds down.
Pyongyang has picked up its anti-Lee rhetoric in recent months and has threatened to attack conservative forces here for criticism of its leadership. It has also accused Seoul and Washington of hiring a defector to slip back into the North to blow up statues of its founder Kim Il-sung, an allegation the allies flatly deny.