August 26, 2019 10:56
The military started drills on Sunday aimed at defending Korea's easternmost islets of Dokdo against an invasion. The drills were held four days after Korea scrapped an intelligence sharing pact with Japan, which maintains a flimsy colonial claim to the islets.
The Navy said the two-day drills involve the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines. Korea has held the drills since 1986, and the current ones are the biggest so far.
"This year's drills are twice the size of last year's," a military spokesman said. An Aegis-class Navy destroyer and Army special forces units were involved for the first time.
The Navy was quick to publish photos and video clips of the drills. This is not the first time it shared them but certainly the most active PR to date.
They had originally been planned for June but were postponed as a spat with Japan worsened. The military then considered holding them on Aug. 15, Liberation Day, after Japan slapped export restrictions on Korea.
Cheong Wa Dae spokesperson Ko Min-jung told reporters, the drills are aimed at "protecting our sovereignty and territory and the decision [to hold them] was not made only with Japan in mind."
The Japanese government protested as usual and demanded that the drills be halted. Kenji Kanasugi at the Japanese Foreign Ministry, telephoned the South Korean Embassy in Tokyo and claimed it is "clear that [Dokdo] is part of Japanese territory in light of historic facts and international law." Kanasugi complained that that the drills are "totally unacceptable and very regrettable." The Japanese ambassador to Korea also complained to the Foreign Ministry.
Japanese broadcaster NHK said drills are "unhelpful" in promoting cooperation between Seoul and Tokyo as Pyongyang steps up military provocations.
The islets are tiny and barely habitable but surrounded by rich fishing grounds and presumed underwater resources, which is why Japan has recently stepped up its claim.
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