Alwaght- The Japanese government on Sunday protested against South Korea's military exercises around tiny Liancourt Rocks islands, disputed by Tokyo and Seoul, the Kyodo news agency reported, citing sources in Japanese diplomatic circles.
Earlier on Sunday, the Yonhap news agency reported that South Korean forces were conducting two-day exercises in the area of the islands. According to the agency, naval, air and land forces are involved in the exercises, and there is no information on their strength yet.
The Japanese foreign ministry called the drills unacceptable and said it had lodged a protest with South Korea calling for them to end.
The protest was sent via diplomatic channels. Tokyo insisted that the islands belonged to Japan.
Tokyo and Seoul have long been at loggerheads over the sovereignty of the group of islets called Takeshima in Japanese and Dokdo in Korean, which lie about halfway between the East Asian neighbors in the Sea of Japan, also known as the East Sea. They have been administered by Seoul since 1954, a claim Japan disputes. Tokyo has suggested that Seoul should present the issue to the International Court of Justice. However, South Korea believes there is no dispute over the islands and considers them to be its territory historically, geographically and legally.
Tensions in the region have spiked amid a worsening political and economic spat between South Korea and Japan, a string of missile launches by North Korea.
South Korea announced the scrapping of an intelligence-sharing pact with Japan on Thursday, drawing a swift protest from Tokyo and deepening a decades-old dispute over history that has hit trade and undercut security cooperation over North Korea.
Relations between South Korea and Japan began to deteriorate late last year following a diplomatic row over compensation for wartime forced laborers during Japan’s occupation of Korea.
They soured further when Japan tightened its curbs on exports of high-tech materials needed by South Korea’s chip industry, and again this month when Tokyo said it would remove South Korea’s fast-track export status.
The disputed islands have long been one of the most sensitive areas of contention for South Korea and Japan.
The defense drills around the islands have typically been conducted twice a year, but the current exercises had been delayed as relations deteriorated, Yonhap news agency reported.