South Korea issued a "strong" protest Friday over Japan's revised national security strategy repeating its sovereignty claim to the South's easternmost islets of Dokdo, calling for its immediate deletion.
Seoul's foreign and defense ministries called in a senior diplomat and a defense attache from the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, respectively, to lodge a formal protest over the claims to Dokdo.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida's Cabinet approved the new strategy that described the East Sea outcroppings as "our inherent territory." It also endorsed two other key defense documents in a move to bolster its security capabilities.
"Our government strongly protests the inclusion into the National Security Strategy of its wrongful claim to Dokdo, which is our inherent territory historically, geographically and by international law, and calls for the immediate deletion of this," Lim Soo-suk, the spokesperson of Seoul's foreign ministry, said in a commentary.
"The Japanese government must clearly realize that the repetition of the wrongful claims to Dokdo would not be of any help in the efforts for the establishment of the future-oriented South Korea-Japan relationship," he added.
Lim went on to say the Seoul government will respond "sternly" to any "provocation" over the islets.
Dokdo has long been a recurring source of tension between the two neighbors, as Tokyo continues to make the sovereignty claims in its policy papers, public statements and school textbooks.
The revisions to Japan's key security and defense documents drew keen attention in South Korea, as they represent a marked shift for a country long restricted by the post-war "pacifist" constitution.
Under the revisions, Tokyo embraced "counterstrike capability." It would pave the way for Japan to launch a counterattack when it or its ally, the US, comes under attack, possibly from the North, observers said.
The capability invited criticism that it would be at odds with its war-renouncing constitution and long-held "exclusively" defense-oriented policy.
The country also lifted its self-imposed defense budget ceiling -- 1 percent of its gross domestic product -- to hike the spending to 2 percent of the GDP by fiscal year 2027 that starts on April of that year.
On the counterstrike capability, Seoul's foreign ministry said it is "desirable" that related discussions proceed transparently, and in a way that contributes to regional peace and stability while upholding the spirit of Japan's pacifist constitution.
The capability has raised the possibility of Japan exercising it against the North -- part of the Korean Peninsula, which the South's constitution defines as part of its territory.
The ministry said the exercise of such a capability definitely requires Seoul's consent, given that it would have a significant impact on security on the peninsula and the South's national interests.
Regarding Japan's plan for a defense budget hike, the ministry said it is "paying close attention to related movements."
The Tokyo government has explained the revision of the security document to Seoul in advance, the ministry said.
Japan's push for stronger armament has long been a source of concern for South Korea and China, the two victims of its past militarism, as it could spur a regional arms race at a time when the neighbors believe Tokyo has yet to fully atone for its wartime atrocities. (Yonhap)