South Korean president Lee Myung-bak denied that he demanded an apology from Emperor Akihito in the heat of a diplomatic spat with Japan over a territorial dispute.

During a meeting in the South Korean presidential palace, Mr. Lee told former Japanese prime minister Taro Aso that he never made the remarks, Asahi Shimbun reports. As well as the denial, issues that have damaged relations, such as a dispute over the Takeshima islets, or Dokdo, and “comfort women“, were discreetly eluded in the meeting with Mr. Aso, informed sources said.

Mr. Aso visited South Korea as the head of the Japanese delegation for the general meeting of the Japan-Korea Cooperation Committee on Monday.

Marred by their historical past, relations between South Korea and Japan took a turn for the worse over territories both consider as crucial to heightened sense of sovereignty. Mr. Lee had allegedly sought Emperor Akihito’s apology for Japan’s colonial rule of the Korean peninsula, saying that if he wants to visit South Korea he would need to make such a gesture. Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda expressed that Mr. Lee’s remarks were “regrettable” in a letter proposing to take the dispute to the International Court of Justice, which Seoul returned.