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Iran Press TV

South Korea kicks off drills around disputed island, draws ire from Japan

Iran Press TV

Sun Aug 25, 2019 06:47AM

South Korea has staged military drills around a remote pacific island also claimed by Japan, prompting a protest from Tokyo in a move that could further stoke tensions between the two Asian neighbors.

The two-day military exercise, dubbed East Sea territory defense training, began on Sunday and would involve warships and aircraft, according to a South Korean ministry of defense official.

The drills are being conducted in the vicinity of the disputed group of islets called Takeshima in Japanese and Dokdo in Korean.

Tokyo and Seoul have long been at loggerheads over the sovereignty of the rocky islets, which are uninhabitable and lie about halfway between the East Asian neighbors in the Sea of Japan, also referred to as the East Sea by Seoul.

"Our military conducts this exercise to further cement our determination to protect our national territories in the East Sea, including Dokdo," the South Korean Navy said in a statement.

The Japanese foreign ministry denounced the war games as "unacceptable" and said it had lodged a protest with South Korea, calling for an end to the drills.

The island is "obviously an inherent part of the territory of Japan," Kenji Kanasugi, the director general at the ministry's Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, said in a statement.

Seoul has controlled the islets since 1945 when Tokyo's 35-year rule over the Korean Peninsula came to an end.

South Korea stages drills on and around the disputed islets twice a year, mostly in June and December.

This year's war games were delayed amid a rising trade spat between South Korea and Japan as well as the controversy over historical issues concerning the compensation for wartime forced laborers during World War II and Japan's occupation of Korea.

Ties between Seoul and Tokyo have further deteriorated and sunk to a fresh low in recent weeks after Japan removed South Korea from a list of trusted trading partners earlier this month and announced tighter export curbs on its neighbor.

In response, South Korea embarked on terminating a military intelligence-sharing pact with Tokyo.

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