South Korea begins navy drills amid Olympics territory row with Japan

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Japan and South Korea have been embroiled in a dispute after a Tokyo Olympics map was published marking disputed islands as part of Japan. Both Seoul and Tokyo have long disputed the sovereignty of islets called “Dokdo” in South Korea and “Takeshima” in Japan, which lie about halfway between the two countries in the Sea of Japan.

On Tuesday, South Korea held their drills around the disputed islets after talks with Japan collapsed.

South Korea’s defence ministry said on Tuesday that the drills in the East Sea involved naval, air and coastguard forces.

The ministry also shared the drills were being staged with minimal contact between troops due to coronavirus concerns.

South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga took issue with the drills.

The agency then claimed Mr Suga called off planned talks with South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the G7 summit during the weekend.

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Foreign ministry officials told Yonhap Japan’s failure to respond to the pull-aside plan was “regrettable”.

They added both Seoul and Tokyo had agreed on the plans “at a working level, due to the annual drills to safeguard the East Sea territory”.

Speaking to Reuters, another foreign ministry official said the meeting between Mr Suga and Mr Moon could not be held, but did not confirm why.

When asked if Seoul’s drills were to blame, they said: “The exercises are regularly held every year for the purpose of defending our territory.”

Japanese officials said the meeting had been called off due to scheduling problems.

South Korea have held military drills at the disputed islets twice a year since 1986.

However, Japan has frequently protested the drills as the regard the islets as Japanese territory by history and international law.

Japan’s chief cabinet secretary Katsunobu Kato said at a news conference on Tuesday: “This sort of drill is unacceptable and extremely regrettable.

“We’ve protested to the South Korean government and called for them to be halted.”


Earlier this month, South Korea lodged a complaint with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) after Tokyo 2020 organisers identified the islands as Japanese on an online map showing the route of the Olympic torch relay.

Japan has rejected South Korea’s demand to amend the Olympics map, prompting calls from some South Korean MPs to boycott the Games.

Lee Nak Yon, former South Korean Prime Minister, said on Facebook: “Japan’s Olympic organising committee is marking Dokdo as Japanese territory, and dismissing Korea’s demands to correct it.”

“The Olympic Charter states it pursues political neutrality, and Japan’s act is against the Olympic spirit that pursues harmony.”

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