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Korea to stage military drill to defend Dokdo

South Korea plans to stage a military drill to better defend its easternmost islets of Dokdo this month as Japan ratchets up its sovereignty claims, officials said Wednesday.

The exercise is designed to stave off any illegal approaches and will be conducted jointly by the military and coast guard for two days late this month on and around the windswept outcrops in the East Sea, they said.

Among the scheduled plans is a landing training exercise by the Navy’s Underwater Demolition and Sea, Air and Land teams, as well as some Marines. The exercise will also involve five to six naval patrol ships and destroyers, four Coast Guard patrol ships, a Lynx antisubmarine helicopter and some fighters and patrol planes.

The military has been carrying out the program twice a year since 1986, the last time in November, drawing Japan’s protests. Yet the latest drill is expected to be more intensive than usual given escalating territorial tension between the two countries.

Last month, the Shinzo Abe government again reasserted its sovereignty in an annual diplomatic paper, while certifying 18 updated middle school textbooks, most of which carry strengthened assertions regarding Dokdo.

The U.S. and Japan recently revised their bilateral defense cooperation guidelines that will pave the way for Tokyo to play a greater military role, possibly also on the Korean Peninsula, to help defend allies under attack. The clause ignited concerns about Japan’s Self-Defense Forces entering Korean territory in an emergency, a move that would likely prompt stringent resistance here in light of lingering resentment toward the former occupier.

Dokdo has been a perennial thorn between Seoul and Tokyo. Korea deems the islets to be the first victim of Japan’s annexation of its territory. Korea has maintained control of the outcrops with a small batch of coast guard officers since its liberation in 1945.

In its annual white paper, the Defense Ministry pledged a robust defense and readiness posture to protect Dokdo.

By Shin Hyon-hee (