In the Aug. 25, 2019, file photo, service members carry out a military drill on South Korea's easternmost islets of Dokdo in the East Sea to deter trespassers. (Yonhap)
South Korea was to stage an annual military exercise around its easternmost islets of Dokdo on Tuesday after Japan protested the planned drill and called off an agreed-upon summit between the two countries.
The drill, named the East Sea Territory Protection Exercise, will involve the Navy, the Air Force and the Coast Guard, and be staged in a way that minimizes in-person contact given the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Navy.
"As a regular joint exercise, the upcoming drill is aimed at responding to threats to our territory, people and properties," a Navy official said.
South Korea launched the Dokdo drills in 1986. Since 2003, the country has typically conducted the training twice a year, usually in June and December, to better fend off possible foreign infiltrations in the area.
In protest against the regular drill, Japan called off agreed-upon talks between President Moon Jae-in and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga during the Group of Seven (G-7) meeting in Britain last week, a foreign ministry official in Seoul said.
Last year, the military staged the drills twice, but they became known to the public belatedly as the authorities did not disclose details in an apparent move to avoid raising tensions with Japan.
Bilateral relations between Seoul and Tokyo have been at one of their lowest ebbs in recent years over historic and diplomatic issues that have spilled over to the economic and military realms.
Japan has repeatedly laid territorial claims to Dokdo, though South Korea has been in effective control of the islets with a small police detachment since its liberation from Japanese colonial rule in 1945. (Yonhap)