JULY 14 2008 12:34h
The most recent dispute over the islets stretches back to the end of World War Two.
Following are some key facts and positions.
The rocky outcrops lie in the Sea of Japan, which South Korea calls the East Sea. They are roughly equidistant from the mainland of the two countries, some 210 km (130 miles) east of the eastern Korean coastal town of Wondok and north-west of the western Japanese city of Matsue.
There are two main islets. The western one measures about 95,000 sq. metres (23.5 acres) and the eastern one about 67,000 sq metres (16.6 acres). There are also 32 reefs and small, rocky outcrops.
CLAIMS AND BENEFITS
The most recent dispute over the islets stretches back to the end of World War Two, when defeated Japan was expelled as the colonial power on the Korean peninsula.
The area around the islets has fertile fishing grounds and may have undersea deposits of natural gas hydrate that could be worth billions of dollars, Seoul has said.
Possession of the islands would extend nautical territory.
Seoul says the islands have been recorded as being a part of Korean territory since 512.
Seoul says Japan claimed the islands as being a part of its Shimane Prefecture when Korea was forced into becoming a Japanese protectorate in 1905. It says the 1951 San Francisco Peace Treaty implies that the islands were returned to Korea.
South Korea has built lodgings, lighthouses and a monitoring facility on the islands despite repeated protests by Japan.
"Korea's sovereignty over Dokdo is so complete, both de jure and de facto, that it cannot be shaken by any unfounded claims," is the stated position of the South Korean government.
"Tokto is part of the inalienable land of Korea," is the stated position of the North Korean government.
Tokyo says that although it gave up all territorial claims on South Korea under the 1951 Treaty, the islands were not included as part of Korea.
Japan says it effectively governed the islands by the mid-17th century when they were used as a stop-over point for its fishermen.
"Takeshima is clearly part of our nation's territory, historically and also under international law," Japan's Foreign Ministry says on its Web site, adding that South Korea has presented no clear evidence to prove that it had effectively ruled the islands before Japan had.