The South Korean military conducted a drill for the defense of the easternmost islets of Dokdo, which Tokyo has been strongly opposing, just three days after Seoul cancelled the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) with Japan. The military disclosed photos and video footages of the drill in an unusual move.
The South Korean Navy said on Sunday that “We named the exercise ‘East Sea Territory Defense Drill to further consolidate our commitment to defend the territories in the East Sea including Dokdo.” The drill will continue through Monday. The Navy and the Korea Coast Guard have been conducting “Dokdo Defense Drill” once each in the first and second half of the year since 1996 in order to preemptively block Japanese ultra-rightist groups’ possible infiltration into Dokdo. The military postponed the drill in this year’s first half, changed its title for the first time, and expanded the boundary of the exercise to include the entire waters and areas in the East Sea including Dokdo this time.
Notably, the ongoing drill is being conducted at the largest scale ever by deploying Aegis destroyers, which boast strongest combat capabilities among the South Korean Navy’s battleships, and elite troops of the Army Special Warfare Command. The Navy and the Korea Coast Guard mobilized about seven to eight battleships and boats in previous drills, but they have significantly increased such vessels to 10 this time. The number of Marines that have been deployed to Dokdo has also been increased by two to three times than before. “We have more than doubled combat capabilities and troops that have been deployed this year from previous years,” a military source said.
The Japanese foreign ministry’s statement entitled “Protest against the South Korean military’s drill in Takeshima (Dokdo as named by Japan)” on Sunday says, “Takeshima is undoubtedly Japan’s territory. We can never accept the South Korean military’s drill, and deeply regret this.” In a press briefing at the South Korean presidential office, spokeswoman Ko Min-jung said, “The drill is an exercise to defend our territories and sovereignty from all other forces.”