South Korea is considering carrying out a combined maritime defense drill on and around its easternmost islets of Dokdo as early as this month, military and government sources said Sunday.
The military exercise, if conducted, would come amid an escalating row with Japan over shared history that has spilled into the economic realm after Japan last month imposed a tougher approval process for exports of some chemicals to South Korea.
The row intensified on Friday as Tokyo approved a plan to remove South Korea from a list of nations given preferential status for the purchase of sensitive items that can be diverted for military use.
South Korea has strongly denounced the move and announced plans to drop Japan from its own whitelist of trusted export partners.
Multiple sources said Seoul had put off the exercise so as to not to worsen bilateral relations while the dispute remains unresolved.
"We have delayed the drill in consideration of the bilateral relationship," one source said. "But with Japan continuing to exacerbate the situation, there is a consensus that we can no longer postpone the plan."
South Korea has maintained effective control of the nation's easternmost islets since their liberation from Japanese colonial rule in 1945. But Japan has persistently laid claim to Dokdo.
The Dokdo drill, involving the Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard, is held twice a year, usually in June and December. Last year's drills took place in those two months. (Yonhap)