DHAKA: South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak is expected later Friday to visit islands at the heart of a territorial dispute with Japan, his spokeswoman said, a trip set to ignite a sharp diplomatic row with Tokyo.
It would be the first-ever visit by a South Korean president to the rocky outcrops in the Sea of Japan (East Sea), known as Dokdo in Korean and Takeshima in Japanese.
In Tokyo, Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba said any such trip "would have a great impact on Japan-South Korea relations" and Japan would "have to respond firmly".
The presidential spokeswoman said Lee was scheduled to visit South Korea`s Ulleung Island and would fly on by helicopter to nearby Dokdo if weather permitted.
South Korea and its former colonial ruler Japan have disputed ownership of the tiny Dokdo islands for decades. The South has stationed a small coastguard detachment on them since 1954.
Lee`s visit would come just days before the August 15 anniversary of Japan`s World War II surrender, which ended its 35-year colonial rule over Korea.
The spokeswoman denied Japanese media reports that Seoul notified Tokyo in advance of the trip. She told AFP there was no reason to notify Japan "of a visit to our territory".
BDST: 1230 HRS, AUG 10, 2012
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