News / Asia

South Korea Proceeds with Drill on Disputed Rocks

South Korea on Friday staged a drill around a small island it controls but is also claimed by Japan. The long-standing dispute about the maritime territory nearly equidistant between the two countries has re-emerged to plunge Japan-South Korea relations to their lowest point in many years.

Amid increased worries internationally about the territorial spat South Korea scaled back, but did not cancel, the latest maritime drill off its eastern coast.
 
The coast guard led the exercise but South Korea's marines did not, as had been originally planned, land on any of the Liancourt Rocks.
 
Joint Chiefs of Staff spokesman Lee Boong-woo, speaking to reporters Friday, declined to give many specifics about the controversial drill.

Army colonel Lee says the coast guard is in the lead, backed by other military elements, in a scenario where foreign civilians invade South Korea's territorial sea. The size of the drill, the participating forces and its schedule, he says, will not be confirmed.
 
The islets, known as Dokdo in Korean and Takeshima in Japanese, are under Seoul's administrative control but it has not stationed any of its military there.
 
Attention was refocused on the long-standing dispute when South Korean President Lee Myung-bak made an unprecedented visit to the rocks on August 10th.
 
A senior researcher at the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses, Baek Seung-joo says the presidential visit demonstrated his country's effective control of the territory but there will likely be more military drills on the islets in the future.
 
Baek says as long as the coast guard, and not the military, is leading such exercises it should not exacerbate tensions with Japan.
 
South Korean newspapers, following Japan's harsh protests about Lee's visit, published articles speculating war could erupt between the two countries or that Japanese activists might land there.
 
Word of the planned exercise prompted Tokyo to ask Seoul not to go ahead with it but the Japanese government did not raise strong objections.
 
South Korean foreign ministry spokesman Cho Tai-young denies any changes were made because of Japanese concerns.
 
Cho says it is not true that the landing of marines was scrapped at Japan's request.
 
A researcher at Seoul National University's Korea Politics Institute, Eom Ho-keon, says beyond national pride, the disputed rocks are important strategically, including for use as a radar station.

Eom asserts the drill is intended to further demonstrate the islets are Korean territory. But Japan views that differently, he says, and Tokyo is likely to further press its contentions if the drill receives significant international media coverage.
 
Some of the renewed media attention about the rocks is raising the ire of South Korea's government.
 
The Foreign Ministry took the unusual step of publicly objecting to a Newsweek magazine article. Spokespeople for the ministry say the article is biased and they plan to refute its contents.
 
A Newsweek editor contacted by VOA says the magazine stands behind the article.
 
The article was published in the magazine's latest international edition, but not in its Korean version.
 
The reporter who wrote the article, who is also the editor-in-chief of Newsweek’s Japan edition, characterizes the dispute as “downright juvenile.” But the article says the row has Washington concerned because cooperation from both Tokyo and Seoul “is essential in keeping North Korea in check.”
 
The rocks, composed of less than 19 hectares of land, are a highly emotional issue for South Koreans. Although Japan has never made any physical moves to reacquire the territory its lists the rocks in government documents and textbooks as part of Shimane prefecture.
 
Japan asserted colonial control over the entire Korean peninsula from the early 20th century until its defeat by the Allied powers in 1945, bringing to an end the World War II.

Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

You May Like

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor warns of obesity’s worldwide health impact More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam Wari
X
Katherine Gypson
May 25, 2015 1:32 AM
For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.
Video

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.
Video

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.
Video

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.

VOA Blogs