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(LEAD) S. Korea conducts maritime drills to protect Dokdo

All News 17:00 June 08, 2016

(ATTN: CHANGES dateline; ADDS Tokyo's response in paras 5-6)

SEOUL/TOKYO, June 8 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's military and coast guard on Wednesday began two-day maritime drills aimed at better safeguarding the country's easternmost islets of Dokdo, amid Japan's persistent sovereignty claim.

The South Korean military mobilized some 10 vessels, P-3 maritime surveillance aircraft and Lynx antisubmarine helicopters, along with Marine Corps personnel for the maneuvers in the East Sea, military officials said.

The drills are being staged based on a scenario under which foreign forces are making an illicit attempt to land on Dokdo, military officials said.

Since 1986, the South Korean military has been conducting such drills twice a year to strengthen its troops' capabilities to effectively fend off foreign forces encroaching on its territory.

Related to the exercise, Japan's foreign ministry issued a protest, saying it was "very regrettable" for Korea to conduct such drills, according to Kyodo News.

Tokyo lodged the protest to Seoul's foreign ministry via its embassy in Seoul.

Japan has continued to make claims on Dokdo in its state-approved school textbooks and various government documents, including a diplomatic white paper.

Tokyo's repeated claims to Dokdo have been a festering source of friction between the two neighboring countries, particularly when the two sides seek to enhance their security cooperation in the face of provocations by North Korea.

Korea has been in effective control of the islets with a small police detachment since its liberation from Japanese colonial rule in 1945.


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