A defense drill on the Dokdo islets this Friday was scaled down at the last minute by omitting a landing exercise by the Marines. This is the first time the Marines were left out of the defense drills, which began in 1996, at the planning stage and suggests that the government wants to patch up relations with Japan, which maintains a dubious claim to the islets.
Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Genba told the Diet on Monday that his ministry is using a "variety of channels" to dissuade Korea from conducting the drill altogether.
He seems to have been referring to a meeting last Friday between Korean Ambassador Shin Kak-soo and Japanese Vice Foreign Minister Kenichiro Sasae, as well as an unofficial meeting between Japanese Ambassador to Korea Masatoshi Muto and Korea's First Vice Foreign Minister Ahn Ho-young.
A military source said the canceled exercise was a helicopter landing. "The upcoming drill is based on the scenario of foreigners illegally landing on Dokdo, so the maritime police will take the lead, while the military provides support," the source added.
Japan is participating as planned in a maritime exercise under the U.S.-led Proliferation Security Initiative, which will take place in the open sea off Busan. The initiative aims to intercept ships carrying weapons of mass destruction or related materials.