South Korea’s military will conduct two days of drills around a tiny island also claimed by Japan, Yonhap news agency reported on Sunday, just days after Seoul decided to scrap an intelligence-sharing pact with Tokyo amid worsening relations.
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 neighbours in the Sea of Japan, which Seoul refers to as the East Sea.
The military drills were scheduled to begin on Sunday, Yonhap reported, and could exacerbate tensions between the two neighbours.
South Koreas on Thursday had announced the scrapping of the intelligence-sharing pact with Japan, 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 labourers 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. Recently, South Korea and Japan traded words over the way the islands were described on a website for the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics.
The islands were at the centre of a more serious clash in July, when both South Korea and Japan responded to what they saw as a violation of their air space near the islands by a Russian military plane.