South Korea will hold its largest military drill on a cluster of islets in the sea between South Korea and Japan, with the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard participating, a senior presidential aide confirmed.
"Yes, South Korea's military will conduct a biannual defensive military dill on Dokdo. Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard will participate in the upcoming exercise. Cheong Wa Dae and other relevant ministries are working on it," presidential National Security Office (NSO) chief Chung Euiyong told lawmakers at a session of the National Assembly Steering Committee on Tuesday night. The presidential office confirmed the remarks Wednesday afternoon.
"South Korea plans to conduct a military drill on Dokdo twice this year," Chung said. "Details of the exact timing of the drill will be announced once other relevant specifics have been decided on."
Military sources here said the drill would last two days, from Aug. 13 to Aug. 14, a day before the country marks the 74th anniversary of its liberation from Japanese occupation on Aug. 15.
Military exercises were first conducted near the tiny land mass in 1986. They were made a biannual practice in 2003, with naval ships, marines, military aircraft, maritime patrol boats and relevant combat personnel participating.
This year's first Dokdo drill is expected to include a 3,200-ton destroyer, maritime patrol vessels, P-3C anti-submarine and maritime surveillance aircraft, F-15K fighters and a AW-159 Wildcat anti-submarine helicopter, according to military sources. The military also plans to mobilize a squad on the islet as a part of an amphibious exercise.
The plan is drawing extra attention as bilateral tension between South Korea and Japan has been running high since Tokyo's decision to exclude Seoul from its trade "whitelist."
The two countries have long been in dispute over the mostly uninhabited territory, which Japan calls Takeshima. Whenever the defense drill is held, Japan lodges a protest.
But so far this year, the drill has been on hold as South Korea aimed to avoid confrontation with Japan in hope of resolving the trade row.