National / Politics

South Korea to hold naval exercise near Japan-claimed islets next week


South Korea’s navy plans to hold the second part of a biannual exercise next week, which it carries out around a pair of islets it controls, but which are claimed by Japan, a Defense Ministry official said Wednesday.

Similar drills in the Sea of Japan around the far-flung rocky outcrops, known as Dokdo in Korean and Takeshima in Japanese, have been held every spring and fall since 1986 by South Korea, with the stated aim of strengthening military readiness to safeguard against aggression.

Ten warships and several aircraft are set to participate in the upcoming exercise, along with the country’s coast guard, according to a navy official quoted by Yonhap news agency.

The last exercise, held in May, involved destroyers, anti-submarine helicopters, jet fighters and patrol planes. A planned landing drill by marines was canceled due to bad weather, which also happened during the previous exercise in November 2014.

The drills typically prompt diplomatic protests from Japan.

The upcoming exercise comes after South Korean President Park Geun-hye and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe held summit talks Monday for the first time since they both took office.

In its latest defense white paper, South Korea’s Defense Ministry vowed to “stringently respond to Japan’s unjust claims” to the disputed isles, while citing the dispute as being among “obstacles to the future-oriented development” of bilateral relations.