Japan wants South Korea to stop drills around disputed isles

The South Korean Naval Special Warfare Group in a military drill yesterday on the islands called Dokdo in South Korea and Takeshima in Japan. Tokyo and Seoul have long been at loggerheads over the sovereignty of the group of islets, which lie about h
The South Korean Naval Special Warfare Group in a military drill yesterday on the islands called Dokdo in South Korea and Takeshima in Japan. Tokyo and Seoul have long been at loggerheads over the sovereignty of the group of islets, which lie about halfway between the East Asian neighbours in the Sea of Japan.PHOTO: REUTERS

Seoul begins two-day defence exercise after delay amid rising tensions between countries

SEOUL • Japan's Foreign Ministry said yesterday that South Korean navy drills around the Takeshima island group - called Dokdo in Korean - were unacceptable and issued a protest demanding an end to the activities.

The islands are "obviously an inherent part of the territory of Japan", Mr Kenji Kanasugi, director-general at the ministry's Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, told the South Korean Embassy in Tokyo in a statement.

The South Korean military yesterday launched a two-day maritime defence drill in the East Sea - also known as the Sea of Japan - just days after Seoul decided to scrap an intelligence-sharing pact with Tokyo amid worsening relations.

The South Korean navy had said in a statement that it would stage the "territory defence exercises" yesterday and today.

Participating in the maritime drills were battleships from the navy and the coast guard, warplanes from the navy and the air force, and service members from the army and the marine corps.

South Korea's maritime forces conduct the defence drills on and around the country's easternmost islets of Dokdo twice a year, mostly in June and December.

This year's drills were delayed amid a growing trade spat between South Korea and Japan and the controversy over historical issues.

Tokyo and Seoul have long been at loggerheads over the sovereignty of the group of islets, which lie about halfway between the East Asian neighbours in the Sea of Japan.

South Korea's maritime forces conduct the defence drills on and around the country's easternmost islets of Dokdo twice a year, mostly in June and December. This year's drills were delayed amid the rising trade spat between South Korea and Japan and the controversy over historical issues.

South Korea last Thursday had announced the scrapping of the intelligence-sharing pact with Japan, drawing a swift protest from Tokyo and deepening a decades-old dispute over history that has hit trade and undercut security cooperation over North Korea.

Relations between South Korea and Japan began to deteriorate late last year following a diplomatic row over compensation for wartime forced labourers during Japan's occupation of Korea.

They soured further when Japan tightened its curbs on exports of high-tech materials needed by South Korea's chip industry, and again this month when Tokyo said it would remove South Korea's fast-track export status.

 
 
 

The disputed islands have long been one of the most sensitive areas of contention for South Korea and Japan.

Recently, the two nations traded words over the way the islands were described on a website for the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics.

The islands were at the centre of a more serious clash last month, when both South Korea and Japan responded to what they saw as a violation of their airspace near the islands by a Russian military plane.

 

REUTERS, XINHUA

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 26, 2019, with the headline 'Japan wants S. Korea to stop drills around disputed isles'. Print Edition | Subscribe