South Korea on Friday deployed Navy commandos, warships and fighter jets in a military exercise to defend its easternmost islets of Dokdo after Japan recently repeated its territorial claim.
The military mobilized five warships including the 3,200-ton destroyer Gwanggaeto the Great, two F-15K fighters, P-3C Orion anti-submarine aircraft, CH-60 and CH-47 choppers, and some members of the Navy’s Underwater Demolition Team.
The exercise, which has been carried out about twice a year since 1986, coincides with Dokdo Day. The nation has observed the day since a nationwide association of teachers designated it three years ago.
“We have decided to open the exercise to the press to display our military’s strong will to safeguard the Dokdo islets, which are historically and effectively South Korean territory,” Col. Wee Yong-sub, chief of the Public Information Division at the Defense Ministry, told reporters.
In protest against the drills, Tokyo’s Foreign Ministry called in Kim Won-jin, a diplomat in charge of political affairs at the Korean Embassy in Japan. Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga also expressed “extreme regret” over the drills during a press conference.
The military initially planned not to disclose the exercise to the media. But it apparently changed its position after Tokyo posted a video clip repeating its claim to Dokdo on its foreign ministry’s website and YouTube.
After the video clip was posted online, Seoul’s Foreign Ministry called the posting an “a-historical, anachronistic, provocative act,” and requested that it be immediately removed.
Friday’s exercise was part of regular drills, which are aimed at defending Dokdo against civilians attempting to approach the islets by air or sea, officials said.
During the exercise, Navy troops landed on Dokdo to block any illegal approaches. It is rare for Navy commandos to practice landing on Dokdo, officials said.
Dokdo has long been a thorny issue between Seoul and Tokyo, which has impeded the neighbors’ practical cooperation in areas including security.
Japan incorporated the islets as part of its territory in 1905 before colonizing the entire peninsula. Korea has been in effective control of them with a small coast guard unit since its liberation in 1945.
Meanwhile, the National Archives of Korea unveiled a world map Japan published in 1844. In the map, the body of waters between the Korean Peninsula and Japan is referred to as Sea of Joseon ― the Korean era from 1392 to 1910.
The map was revealed as Tokyo reportedly plans to create a video clip to highlight the waters as the Sea of Japan. Calling the waters the East Sea, Seoul has sought to convince other countries to use both names through a variety of promotional and diplomatic efforts.
By Song Sang-ho