Largest-ever Dokdo defense drills held for second and final day

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Largest-ever Dokdo defense drills held for second and final day

Korea staged an expanded military exercise on and around its easternmost islets of Dokdo in the East Sea for the second and final day Monday, the Navy said, amid escalating tensions with Japan over historical and trade issues.

The two-day regular exercise kicked off on the largest scale ever Sunday, involving all three armed services, as well as the Marine Corps and the Coast Guard, a sign that Seoul is taking a hard-line stance on the deepening row with Japan.

The biannual drills, launched in 1986, are usually held in June and December, but this year’s exercise was pushed back over apparent concern it could excessively aggravate tensions with Tokyo.

Japan, which continues to make territorial claims over Dokdo, immediately protested the drills and called for their halting. Seoul flatly dismissed such calls and pledged to sternly respond to Japan’s wrongful territorial claims to Dokdo.

Korea has maintained effective control of the rocky outcroppings off the east coast with a small police detachment since 1945.

Korea gave the exercise a new name, called the East Sea Territory Protection Exercise instead of its previous title of the Dokdo Defense Drills, which reflects “the significance and the scale of this exercise that aims to further consolidate the determination to defend our territories in the East Sea, including Dokdo,” the Navy said.

On Sunday, the military mobilized 10 naval vessels, including its 7,600-ton Aegis-equipped destroyer, Sejong the Great, for the first time and 10 warplanes, such as F-15Ks.

The exercise began just three days after Korea announced its decision to terminate the military information-sharing pact with Japan in response to Tokyo’s export curbs on Seoul.

Noting that the drills have been staged on a regular basis, however, presidential office spokesperson Ko Min-jung said the exercise is not aimed at any specific country but to better fend off potential threats from “all forces.”

The drills also came after a Russian warplane violated Korean airspace above the islets in July.

Last month, a Russian warplane intruded into Korean airspace over Dokdo twice, while China and Russia were conducting their first joint air patrol. Two other Russian and Chinese military aircraft also entered Korea’s Air Defense Identification Zone between Dokdo and Korea’s eastern island of Ulleung several times without prior notice.

According to Navy officers, Monday’s drills are to be led by the Coast Guard. The Navy led the programs Sunday. The exercise is expected to be wrapped up later in the day as scheduled.

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