South Korea holds military exercise to defend Japan-claimed islets

SEOUL – South Korea held military exercises Monday on and around the tiny islets in the Sea of Japan that are claimed by Tokyo, according to the Defense Ministry in Seoul.

The exercise was carried out by warships and escort vessels in a drill designed to combat external forces approaching the islets known as Dokdo in South Korea, which controls them, and Takeshima in Japan, defense officials in Seoul said.
The South Korean Defense Ministry canceled initially planned participation of air force planes and landing exercises by marines, citing bad weather.

Despite the scaled-back exercises, Japan’s Foreign Ministry lodged a protest against the drill later Monday, calling it an unacceptable move.

South Korea has conducted defensive drills for the rocky outcroppings in the Sea of Japan on a regular basis, usually once or twice a year.

The latest exercise came before a meeting of senior diplomatic officials from the two countries scheduled for Thursday. The officials were to discuss a number of bilateral issues, including the “comfort women” who were forced to work in Japanese military brothels during World War II.
The meeting is being held based on an agreement between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Park Geun-hye during a dinner at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum summit in Beijing on Nov. 10.

Abe and Park also have expressed a willingness to hold a trilateral summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping as a step toward realizing the first official meeting between the Japanese and South Korean leaders.
However, the Takeshima drill may dampen these efforts to mend soured ties, analysts said.


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