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Korea plans to conduct Dokdo defense drills early next month

The South Korean military plans to conduct regular military exercises in waters near the easternmost islets of Dokdo early next month but they may be delayed because of increased tension over Japan's renewed territorial claims, a military source said Saturday.

"The Navy has set up a plan to stage the drills to defend Dokdo for four days from Sept. 9," the source said.

The plan is pending final confirmation at a government diplomatic and security policy consultation meeting next week as some in the government have raised a need to postpone it due to the tension with Japan, the source added.

The biannual exercise is scheduled at a time when diplomatic tensions between Seoul and Tokyo have risen following South Korean President Lee Myung-bak's unprecedented visit to the islets on Aug. 10.

The South Korean Defense Ministry's position is that the biannual drills should be carried out as planned to demonstrate the country's strong will toward defending Dokdo as part of its territory, the source said.

Dokdo, which lies closer to South Korea in the East Sea that divides the Korean Peninsula and Japan, has long been a thorn in relations between the two countries. South Korea keeps a small police detachment on the islets, effectively controlling them.

The defense drills will be carried out under a scenario in which the Army, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard conduct a joint operation to repel a vessel that has invaded territorial waters near Dokdo, according to Seoul officials. The last such drill was held in February. (Yonhap News)

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