South Korea, the U.S., and Japan are sending confused messages about an upcoming joint naval drill.
The Pentagon said Wednesday the naval exercise will take place between June 21 and 22 off the south coast of Jeju Island. Japan previously participated in South Korea-U.S. joint naval drills only as an observer, and this is the first time it will take part officially, the Pentagon said. It would be the first combined naval exercise involving the three countries.
The Pentagon is treating it as a military exercise with the participation of the aircraft carrier USS George Washington, now anchored in Japan's Yokoska port.
But a South Korean Defense Ministry official insisted the exercise is humanitarian in nature, involving search, rescue and marine interdiction training, and has in this form been taking place since 2008.
The official added, "The Japanese Naval Self-Defense Force has been taking part in the drills since then, so this is not the first time."
Seoul apparently wants to downplay the drill, while Washington and Tokyo wish to present it as a show of strength.