South Korea is planning to conduct combined maritime defense drills on and around its easternmost islets of Dokdo as early as this month, government sources said Wednesday.
During a parliamentary committee session, National Security Director Chung Eui-yong confirmed Tuesday that the government would carry out two maritime drills this year.
While the date has not yet been decided, military sources said the maritime drills are likely to take place before or after the Liberation Day holiday Aug. 15, which celebrates the country gaining its independence from Japanese colonial rule at the end of World War II.
Korea has conducted maritime defense drills twice a year around the Dokdo islets since 2003 to protect its territory. Japan, which claims the islets as its own, calling them Takeshima, has denounced the drills.
While the biannual maritime drills usually take place in June and December, they were pushed back this year in light of the escalating row between Seoul and Tokyo over trade and historical issues.
Korea has maintained effective control of the islets since Japanese colonial rule ended in 1945.
The weapons to be mobilized for the upcoming drills have not been disclosed. Previously, the maritime drills included some six warships, including 3,200-ton destroyers, and seven aircraft. The Marine Corps is also reviewing the possibility of sending a squad to this year’s maritime drills.
The drills are led by the Navy and the Coast Guard, which team up with the Air Force and sometimes with the Marine Corps. While Chung hinted at the possibility of dispatching the Army for the upcoming drills during the parliamentary session, the Army said it is not considering taking part for now.
The military authorities are considering handing over regular patrolling duties to the Marine Corps instead of the Coast Guard, which is currently responsible for patrolling the area. During a parliamentary committee session Tuesday, Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo said he would review the plan and seriously consider the proposal.
The government is also reviewing plans to expand the dock on Dokdo and build an information center to reinforce Korea’s effective control of the islets, Chung said during the session.