Japan has lodged a protest with South Korea over its plan to conduct a military drill around the Seoul-controlled, Tokyo-claimed islets in the Sea of Japan, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said Friday.
The drill, starting next Monday, “is unacceptable in light of our country’s stance regarding the sovereignty of Takeshima,” Kishida told reporters, referring to the islets known as Dokdo in South Korea. “It is regrettable.”
Kenji Kanasugi, head of the Foreign Ministry’s Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, lodged the protest Wednesday with a senior diplomat at the South Korean embassy in Tokyo, a Japanese government source said.
The South Korean military conducts such exercises near Takeshima a few times a year. In December, some 10 South Korean marines landed on one of the two disputed islets, prompting a strong protest by Japan.
South Korea’s moves come as the relationship between Japan and South Korea remains strained over the long-standing issue of “comfort women” procured for the Japanese military’s wartime brothels.
Japan has said the erection of statues symbolizing the women in front of Japanese diplomatic facilities in South Korea, including one in December, goes against the spirit of a 2015 bilateral agreement to “finally and irreversibly” resolve the protracted dispute over the issue.
The statue installation outside the Japanese consulate in Busan in December prompted Tokyo to recall its ambassador, while opponents in South Korea have criticized the accord, saying it does not fulfill their key demand that the Japanese government admit legal responsibility for compensation.