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(LEAD) S. Korean Navy launches Dokdo defense drills

Defense 09:54 August 25, 2019

(ATTN: RECASTS headline, lead; ADDS details in last 4 paras, photo)

SEOUL, Aug. 25 (Yonhap) -- The South Korean armed forces launched a two-day military exercise to defend the easternmost islets of Dokdo on Sunday, in a show of its staunch defense stance against Japan's repeated sovereignty over the cluster of rocks in the East Sea.

The Navy announced that the drill involves Navy, Air Force and Army forces, such as naval warships and aircraft, as well as Army and Marine Corp troops.

The drills have been held twice a year, usually in June and December, to better fend off possible foreign infiltrations to the rocky outcroppings and the surrounding waters.

But this year's drills have been pushed back amid an escalating trade row with Japan stemming from differences over wartime forced labor. Japan, which has made territorial claims to Dokdo, has protested the drills.

"In consideration of the drill's significance and size, the military named it the 'East Sea territory defense exercise,' in order to further solidify its determination to defend the country's territories in the East Sea, including Dokdo," a Navy official said.

This photo, taken Aug. 19, 2019, shows South Korea's easternmost islets of Dokdo. (Yonhap)

South Korea launched the Dokdo drills in 1986. Last year, the drills took place for two days in both June and December.

South Korea has maintained effective control of the nation's easternmost islets with a small police detachment since their liberation from Japanese colonial rule in 1945. Japan has persistently laid claim to Dokdo, drawing strong condemnation from the Seoul government.

Earlier this month, South Korea lodged a protest over Japan's marking of Dokdo as its territory on a map on the 2020 Tokyo Olympics website.

Seoul-Tokyo ties recently have plummeted to a fresh low after Japan dropped South Korea from the list of its trusted trading partners earlier this month following the announcement of tighter export curbs on July 4. In response, South Korea on Thursday announced its decision to terminate the military information-sharing pact with Japan.

Visitors tour South Korea's easternmost Dokdo islets on Aug. 19, 2019, when the Dokdo tour reopened after being suspended for six days due to high waves. (Yonhap)


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