The South Korean military held this year's first Dokdo defense drill earlier this week, about two weeks after Japan laid claim to the islets in its annual diplomatic book.
According to a military source, the Navy, Coast Guard and Air Force carried out the East Sea territorial defense drill on Tuesday, which was previously known as the Dokdo defense drill.
Seven to eight warships and four to five aircraft including the F-15K fighter jet were mobilized in the latest drill, though a landing exercise involving troops did not take place due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tensions have been simmering between Seoul and Tokyo over Japan's Dokdo claim and other trade issues. The Korean military said the drill had been planned and the state of bilateral relations did not play a factor.
A national memorial and exhibition hall dedicated to Korea's independence movement against Japan's colonial rule will provide free education programs and lectures on the Dokdo islets from this weekend to mark Dokdo Day.
The Independence Hall of Korea will host the activities to celebrate Dokdo Day, which falls on Friday this year and was established to commemorate a royal decree issued in 1900 proclaiming the easternmost islets as Korean territory.
The day was also established to underline South Korea’s intent to guard Dokdo as its territory.
The memorial hall will provide exhibitions and various programs on Dokdo’s history and environment this weekend.
Next Sunday, Sejong University professor Yuji Hosaka, a Dokdo expert, will give a lecture on the islets at the hall.
The Japanese government has hinted that it may deploy fighter jets in case of a confrontation related to the Dokdo islets.
In its 2019 defense white paper released on Friday, Tokyo cited an incursion by a Russian warplane into the airspace over Dokdo in July as an infringement on Japan’s sovereign rights.
The paper said Tokyo lodged a protest after South Korean jets fired warning shots to deter the Russian warplane, claiming that the airspace over Dokdo belongs to Japan.
Japan has long claimed South Korea's Dokdo as its own, ascribing the name Takeshima to the East Sea islets.
Tokyo has included claims to the islets in its defense white paper since 2005, but the most recent iteration is the first to hint that fighter jets may be used to exercise those claims.
Seoul's Foreign Ministry said Japan's “absurd” declarations will not affect South Korea's sovereignty over Dokdo, and vowed to respond firmly to any provocations.
The government has strongly protested Japan’s move to renew its territorial claims to South Korea's Dokdo islets in the East Sea in its annual defense review.
The government lodged the protest in a statement issued under the name of Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Kim In-chul on Friday, stressing that Dokdo is clearly South Korean territory historically, geographically and under international law.
The statement urges Tokyo to immediately retract the territorial claim from its defense white paper.
The statement said the Japanese government must realize that repeatedly making unreasonable and groundless assertions over the islets is of absolutely no help to Seoul-Tokyo relations.
It also made clear the unjust claims do not have any effect on South Korea’s sovereignty over the islets, adding that Seoul will sternly deal with any provocations from Japan over Dokdo.
Seoul's positions on the white paper language and Japan's land claims were directly conveyed to Taisuke Mibae, minister for political affairs at the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, after he was summoned by the Foreign Ministry later Friday.
Japan has renewed its territorial claims to South Korea's Dokdo islets in the East Sea in its annual defense review, amid strained bilateral relations over trade and historical issues.
The Japanese government on Friday held a Cabinet meeting and adopted the 2019 Defense White Paper.
In the white paper, the Japanese government said, like last year, that "territorial issues concerning the Japanese territories of the Northern Territories and Takeshima remain unsettled."
Takeshima is Japan's name for the Dokdo islets and the Northern Territories are what Japan calls four islands in the Pacific at the center of a territorial dispute with Russia.
This year marked the 15th straight year for Japan to include its territorial claims over Dokdo in its defense white paper.
South Korea's ruling Democratic Party(DP) on Sunday condemned a Japanese lawmaker for suggesting that war is the only way for Japan to “regain” the Dokdo islets from South Korea.
In a tweet posted Saturday, Hodaka Maruyama of the fringe The Party to Protect the People from NHK suggested the need for Japan to bring about war to take the East Sea islets.
Maruyama had earlier in May made similarly bombastic suggestions regarding some Kiril Islands that both Japan and Russia claim as their own.
His comments on Dokdo came the same day as a visit to the islets by a group of South Korean lawmakers.
DP floor spokesperson Park Chan-dae strongly criticized the remark, calling it reckless and unacceptable. Park added the comment is inauspicious, as it comes at a time of “economic war” by Japan against South Korea.
He urged Seoul to take a stern measure against the remark.
Anchor: South Korea conducted a two-day military exercise aimed at defending the islets of Dokdo in the East Sea, amid escalating tensions with Japan. The biannual exercise, which mobilized the biggest number of troops to date, began three days after Seoul decided to scrap its military information-sharing agreement with Tokyo.
Celina Yoon has more.
Report: South Korea carried out a military exercise to defend its easternmost islets of Dokdo.
The two-day "East Sea Territory Protection Exercise," staged on and around Dokdo in the East Sea ended around noon Monday.
Formerly known as the Dokdo Defense Drills, the Navy said it renamed the biannual exercise to solidify its resolve to defend not only Dokdo, but all its territories in the East Sea.
This year's exercise was the largest ever, with nearly double the number of troops compared to the past. All three armed services as well as the Marine Corp and the Coast Guard were involved.
Around ten naval vessels were mobilized on Sunday, including the seven-thousand-600-ton Aegis-equipped destroyer Sejong the Great, which took part for the first time. Ten warplanes, such as F-15Ks and special warfare troops also participated.
Monday's drills were scaled down with the Coast Guard taking the lead and the Navy providing support.
South Korea has been staging Dokdo defense drills twice a year, typically in June and December, since 1986, but this year's drills were pushed back taking into account sensitive relations with Japan, which also makes territorial claims to Dokdo.
However, the government kicked off the drills as ties worsened over Tokyo's apparent economic retaliation against Seoul for Korean court rulings ordering compensation for victims of Japan's wartime forced labor.
South Korea has stressed the drills are not targeting a specific country but aims to increase readiness to cope with increasing security threats in the East Sea. Last month, a Russian warplane had violated Korean airspace above the islets.
It also dismissed Japan's complaints over the drills, adding that it would sternly respond to unjust Japanese claims to Dokdo.
The Seoul government will reportedly soon get to work on setting the date and scope for this year's second drill around the easternmost islets.
Celina Yoon, KBS World Radio News.
The South Korean military will hold an exercise on Monday to amplify its defense capabilities of the country's easternmost Dokdo islets.
The drill is part of a two-day exercise launched the previous day called "East Sea territory defense training" which is designed to enhance South Korea's defense capabilities of its East Sea territories and is the largest exercise of its kind to date.
Military authorities said that the Korea Coast Guard will lead the exercise on Monday, while the Navy will take supportive roles, focusing on the training of Coast Guard vessels.
Some ten Navy and Coast Guard vessels participated in the first day of the drills on Sunday, along with about ten aircraft from the Army, Navy and Air Force, including F-15K fighter jets.
The country's first Aegis-equipped destroyer, Sejong the Great, as well as the Navy's UDT/SEAL Unit and Army special forces participated in the drills for the first time.
The biannual exercise is usually held in June and December, but had been pushed back due to new developments in Seoul-Tokyo relations. The year's first Dokdo defense training comes just three days after South Korea announced it would scrap a military information sharing deal with Japan.
Seoul will reportedly review the timing and size of the second biannual exercise upon the conclusion of the current drill.
The presidential office says that military exercises launched Sunday on and around the Dokdo islets are designed to defend the country's sovereign territory.
Presidential spokesperson Ko Min-jung said during a Sunday news briefing that the exercises are part of a regular training program run every year.
The two-day exercises, called "East Sea territory defense training," are meant to enhance South Korea's defense capabilities of its East Sea territories, including Dokdo.
The biannual exercise is usually held in June and December, but had been pushed back in consideration of its potential impact on relations with Tokyo, which also makes territorial claims to Dokdo.
The year's first Dokdo defense training comes just three days after South Korea announced it would scrap a military information sharing deal with Japan.
Regarding the timing of the training, Ko said that Seoul did not consider just one certain country when deciding on the date for the exercise and that various factors, including weather, were taken into account.
South Korea is still reviewing the timing and scale of drills to protect its easternmost islets of Dokdo, according to the Defense Ministry.
Ministry spokesperson Choi Hyun-soo said in a regular briefing on Monday that they are still considering logistics for the semiannual maritime defense drill and that the details are subject to change.
South Korea usually conducts the drills in June and December to better defend the islets and surrounding waters. This year it was pushed back in consideration of its potential impact on relations with Tokyo, which also makes territorial claims to Dokdo.
The military reportedly planned larger scale drills around National Liberation Day which falls on August 15 after Tokyo implemented trade restrictions against Seoul in an apparent retaliation to a dispute over compensation for South Korean victims of Japan's wartime forced labor.
However, it is known to have adjusted the timing and scale in light of weather conditions in the East Sea and the military's own schedule for joint exercises with the U.S. this month.
South Korea is also expected to make a decision this week on the General Security of Military Information Agreement(GSOMIA), a military information sharing pact with Japan. An official at the Defense Ministry said no decision has been made yet on whether it will be extended.