The visit of the South Korean president to the Dokdo, or Takeshima islands has been seen by Japan as an affront, and Tokyo has protested.
It is the first visit by a head of state of either country. South Korea and Japan have disputed the islands, almost exactly half-way between the two, for decades. Rich in fish, they may also hide big gas fields underwater.
“Together, President Lee Myung-bak and I have tried to push for a positive future between Japan and South Korea. So for this visit to come at this time is extremely regrettable. I believe it is necessary for the Japanese government to take a resolute stance on this matter,” said Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda
South Korea, which maintains a coastguard station on the islands, has control, and is unlikely to give it up easily. There is still resentment at Japan’s colonial behaviour towards Korea, and the anniversary of South Korea’s freedom from Japan is upcoming.
There is also the little matter of an Olympic football gold showdown between the pair.