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.
South Korea's military is considering conducting bi-annual defense training near the country's easternmost Dokdo islets next week.
According to sources in the military on Tuesday, discussions are underway to hold the two-day exercise from next Tuesday to Wednesday, just before the nation marks the 74th anniversary of liberation from Japanese colonial rule on August 15.
The exact dates have not yet been finalized, however, due to weather conditions and possible changes in the political atmosphere.
Seoul, which conducted the drills in June and in December last year, had put the exercises on hold in consideration of its relations with Japan, which claims the Dokdo islets as its own.
But a sharp deterioration in Seoul-Tokyo ties, accelerated by recent decisions by Tokyo to obstruct trade between the two nations, apparently led Seoul to consider moving forward with the Dokdo defense drills.
The decision may have also been influenced by a Russian warplane’s incursion of South Korean airspace over the islets last month, the first such violation since the Korean War armistice was signed in 1953.
South Korea is reportedly considering carrying out a maritime defense drill on and around the Dokdo islets in the East Sea as early as this month.
According to multiple sources in the military and the government on Sunday, South Korea has put off the defense drill since June so as to not worsen its relations with Japan, but is now mulling conducting the exercise this month without further delay.
A source said that the government has delayed the drill in consideration for the bilateral relationship, but with Japan continuing to exacerbate the situation, there is a consensus that South Korea can no longer postpone the plan.
The military exercise, if conducted, is expected to intensify tensions between South Korea and Japan amid an escalating trade spat over Japan's trade restrictions.
The Dokdo defense drill, involving the Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard, is held twice a year, usually in June and December. Last year's drills took place in those two months.
The United States says a Russian warplane's recent violation of South Korean airspace is "provocative" and that Moscow should halt such acts.
At a press briefing on Thursday, U.S. State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said Washington is not supportive of such provocations.
She also referred to U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper's comments from a day earlier, when he said although Russians had flown south near the region in the past, it's the first time they crossed into South Korean airspace.
The new Pentagon chief added that Seoul responded in deterrence and that he plans to discuss the issue during his upcoming trip to both South Korea and Japan.
His remarks came after Tokyo lodged a protest against Seoul for firing warning shots toward the Russian warplane, claiming the Russians had violated Japanese airspace.
South Korea's military dismissed Japan's renewed territorial claim over the Dokdo islets, reiterating Seoul's position that the islets are Korean territory historically, geographically and by international law.
In a statement released on Wednesday, the Defense Ministry said Japan's claim does not deserve any consideration, adding Seoul will sternly respond to any outside intrusion into Dokdo territory.
This comes after Tokyo lodged a protest with Seoul regarding its mobilization of fighter jets and the firing of hundreds of warning shots in response to a Russian warplane's trespassing into the country's airspace over the islets early Tuesday.
Referring to the incident, Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga claimed Dokdo was part of Japan’s territory.
Anchor: Amid Seoul and Tokyo's ongoing trade spat over the Abe administration's export curbs, tensions between the neighboring countries have been further exacerbated after Tokyo renewed its claim over South Korea's Dokdo islets in the East Sea. South Korea dismissed Japan's latest move, reiterating the islets are Korean territory historically, geographically and by international law.
Choi You Sun has the details.
Report: Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga claimed South Korea's easternmost Dokdo islets are Japanese territory as he addressed an incident early Tuesday regarding a Russian warplane that violated airspace over the islets.
Suga said during a press briefing that the Russian aircraft violated Japanese territory over waters surrounding Takeshima, referring to the islets by its Japanese name, and that Japan's Air Self-Defense Force scrambled fighter jets in response.
As for the South Korean Air Force's mobilization of fighter jets and firing of dozens of flares and hundreds of warning shots, Suga said Tokyo lodged a protest with Seoul over the matter through diplomatic channels.
Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono also claimed the islets are an inherent part of Japan's territory and that they should be the ones to respond to the Russian violation.
Seoul exercises effective control over the islets. There's speculation that Tokyo is publicizing the mobilization of its fighter jets in an attempt to use the incident as an opportunity to promote its territorial claim.
South Korea's presidential office on Wednesday refuted statements made by the Japanese officials, saying Tokyo should confine its concerns to its own air defense identification zone and that Seoul will respond to matters in its own airspace.
The foreign and defense ministries reiterated the government's stance that the islets are South Korea's.
[Sound bite: Defense Ministry Spokesperson Choi Hyun-soo]
"Regarding our Air Force's response to the Russian warplane that violated the airspace above the Dokdo islets yesterday, the Japanese government said that we violated its airspace. Japan's claim is not worthy of consideration and the South Korean Defense Ministry hereby makes it clear that Dokdo is South Korean territory historically, geographically and under international law, and any outside violation of Dokdo will be decisively and sternly dealt with."
The latest flare-up over Dokdo comes in the wake of an escalating trade row over export curbs implemented by Japan in apparent retaliation to South Korean court rulings against Japanese firms over wartime forced labor.
Choi You Sun, KBS World Radio News.