Tensions may spark further between Japan and South Korea over a group of disputed islands, Wall Street Journal reports.

South Korean president Lee Myung-bak visited the islands via helicopter, known as Dokdo in South Korea, and called them “worthy of sacrificing our lives”. There has been a presence of a small number of South Korean police since 1954. The comment spurred responses from Japanese officials and the country recalled its ambassador to South Korea. Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda told the Journal that the islets, known as Takeshima in Japan, belong to the country “historically and by international law”. Japan’s Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba claimed that Tokyo will take the matter to the International Court of Justice. The islets are located halfway between the two countries and are barely inhabitable. Analysts says that the ensuing spat goes beyond mere possession but is a symbol of sovereign rights as well.

A South Korean soccer player was banned from the medal ceremony at the Olympics after holding up a sign saying “Dokdo is Korean territory” when the team’s won the bronze medal against Japan. According to leading officials, the player violated the rule which prevents politics from entering into the Games.