Cheong Wa Dae on Wednesday said it will send back a letter from Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda protesting against President Lee Myung-bak's visit to Korea's easternmost islets of Dokdo and comments about Japan's Emperor Akihito.
The government believes Tokyo violated diplomatic protocol by announcing the contents of the letter without consulting Seoul. "The opinions of experts favor returning the letter," a high-ranking Cheong Wa Dae official said. "We will reach a decision by Thursday and may send it back."
The letter is currently in the hands of the Korean Embassy in Tokyo. The government does not plan to explain the reason to Japan.
The Cheong Wa Dae official said returning the letter seems the best option because the Japanese government committed a major diplomatic faux pas by unilaterally publishing it on its website and announcing it to the media.
Seoul adds that the letter contains inaccurate information by saying that Lee visited "Takeshima," which is what the Japanese call Dokdo. "President Lee did not visit Takeshima, but Dokdo, which is Korean territory, so the letter is incorrect," the official said.
Cheong Wa Dae had been weighing whether to return, answer or ignore the letter. But the fear is that answering it could lead to the misconception that there is a territorial dispute over Dokdo, while ignoring it altogether could be read as acceptance of the Japanese position.