(ATTN: UPDATES throughout with Japan's response, other details; ADDS photo)
SEOUL, Dec. 13 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's Navy, Coast Guard, Air Force and police were set to kick off a regular exercise Thursday to hone their combined capabilities to defend Dokdo, a pair of rocky islets in the East Sea.
In the two-day maritime drills, a 3,200-ton destroyer and seven other surface ships will be mobilized, along with several aircraft, including an F-15K fighter, a P-3C maritime surveillance plane and a UH-60 helicopter, defense officials said.
Seoul launched the Dokdo drills in 1986. Since 2003, it has typically conducted the training twice a year for its troops' combat readiness.
South Korea has been in effective control of the nation's easternmost islets with a small police detachment since its liberation from Japanese colonial rule in 1945. Japan has persistently laid claim to the islets.
The Japanese government said the South Korean military's exercise plan is "very regrettable."
In a statement, the foreign ministry said it can't accept the move and called for a halt to it.
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