The military will begin looking into preparing countermeasures to increasing naval powers in South Korea's neighbors and potential territorial claims that may ensue, officials said Saturday.
A military official said the National Assembly's Special Committee on Budget and Accounts late last year earmarked 500 million won ($430,660) for the related research. The official said it will focus on responding to China's and Japan's growing naval power by strengthening South Korea's own naval forces in the mid- to long-term.
"The defense ministry, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, or the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) will commission a research institute to carry out the study," the official said.
According to the official, the parliamentary committee specifically asked the DAPA, the state procurement agency, to conduct research on protecting the sovereignty of Dokdo in the East Sea and Ieodo, south of the southern resort island Jeju. The committee also said the defense ministry should execute administrative steps.
Japan has laid claims to Dokdo in its defense papers and in school texts. Ieodo lies in the overlapping part of the exclusive economic zones of South Korea and China. The two have agreed not to subject Ieodo to a territorial dispute, though Beijing expressed opposition in 2006 when South Korea built observation facilities there.
A Grand National Party member of the special committee noted that the defense ministry's budget is centered on the army and the ruling party wanted to increase focus on the navy.
The official added the long-term plan may see the launch of a new naval fleet tasked with protecting Dokdo and Ieodo, but a military source said the idea is premature at this point.
"We haven't even started our research, and any talk of a naval fleet just for Dokdo and Ieodo is purely speculative," the source said. "To ensure objective findings, we will take extra caution in choosing a research body to do the study."