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Korea holds defense drills near Dokdo

South Korea on Friday conducted defense drills in waters near the easternmost islets of Dokdo to prepare for any situation in which foreigners trespass in the territorial waters, amid a continued diplomatic standoff with Japan.

The joint operation by Army, Air Force, Navy and Coast Guard kicked off earlier in the day under a scenario in which the maritime police play a leading role if citizens of other countries attempt to approach and illegally land on the islets. After the one-day training, the Navy will hold their own regular drills in the East Sea through Monday.

“The exercise is carried out under the scenario in which Coast Guard takes a leading role in repelling foreign civilians invading territorial waters near Dokdo or trying to land on Dokdo,” Col. Lee Boong-woo of the Combined Forces Command said at a briefing. “The military will provide support for the Coast Guard during the operation.”

Lee did not elaborate on the specific details of the military exercise.

The biannual drills previously involved the Marine Corps for landing operations but the government recently excluded such operations from this exercise, apparently mindful of high tension between South Korea and Japan over Dokdo since President Lee Myung-bak‘s unprecedented visit to the islets on Aug. 10. Japan, which has claimed Dokdo as its territory, strongly protested the visit.

A senior presidential official earlier said Seoul decided to exclude landing maneuvers as the government has already expressed its political determination through Lee’s visit to Dokdo.

South Korea rejected Tokyo‘s claims to Dokdo as amounting to denying Korea’s independence from its 1910-45 colonial rule because the country reclaimed sovereignty over its territory, including Dokdo and many other islands around the Korean Peninsula, when it regained independence.

South Korea has kept a small police detachment on Dokdo since 1954. (Yonhap News)