(Adds Japan government spokesman’s comment in fourth paragraph.)
Nov. 25 (Bloomberg) -- South Korea will spend 400 billion won ($345 million) building a breakwater, a power plant, an underwater observatory and a tunnel at a disputed group of rocky islets that are also claimed by Japan.
Construction will begin in 2013 and is scheduled to be completed in 2016, said Lim Hyun Taek, a development official at the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs in Seoul. The 200-meter (656-foot) tunnel will connect the largest of the two islets, which are known as Dokdo in Korean, Takeshima in Japanese and the Liancourt Rocks internationally.
The dispute nearly provoked a naval clash in April 2006, when South Korean gunboats went on alert to block a planned Japanese survey of the area. South Korea has moved to beef up its claims to the islands off its eastern coast by stationing Coast Guard officers and lighthouse keepers there in addition to two permanent civilian residents, a fisherman and his wife.
"If reports that the plans for construction are moving forward are true, it is unacceptable given our stance that Takeshima belongs to our country," Japanese government spokesman Noriyuki Shikata said today in Tokyo.
The islands are located 87 kilometers (54 miles) east of the closest South Korean territory, Ulleung Island, and 158 kilometers from the nearest Japanese land. The surrounding seas are rich fishing grounds and the seabed may have natural gas deposits, according to a South Korean government website.
Japan says the islets aren’t part of the territories handed over after its occupation of the Korean peninsula ended in 1945.
--With assistance from Takashi Hirokawa in Tokyo. Editors: Brett Miller, John Brinsley
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