Agence France Presse

Seoul, January 8

A postage stamp that depicts a group of islets at the centre of territorial dispute with Japan will go on sale here this month despite a protest from Tokyo, postal authorities of South Korea said today.

Known as Dokdo to Koreans, the islets have been occupied for decades by South Korean coast guards and patrolled by the Korean navy. But Japan, which refers to the volcanic outcrop roughly midway between the two countries as Takeshima, does not recognise the Korean claim.

Japan sent a letter to South Korean authorities late last year urging "discretion" in the planned issue of stamps, a Japanese government official said in Tokyo yesterday. However, South Korea will release 2.25 million stamps on Dokdo as scheduled on January 16.

"The release of the stamps is fundamentally a matter of our own authority," Korea Post director general Park Jay-Q was quoted as saying by Yonhap news agency.

Tokyo says the stamps are in breach of Universal Postal Union agreements on international cooperation. "If the Japanese government protests against the sales of Dokdo stamps via the Universal Postal Union, we will aggressively respond to it," Park said.

South Korean civic groups issued a joint statement today accusing Japan of "intervening in internal affairs." The statement read,"The Japanese claim is a serious challenge to our sovereignty. Japan must stop intervening in our internal affairs."