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South Korea defends military exercises near disputed Dokdo Islets

South Korea said Tuesday that military exercises being held near the Dokdo Islets in the East Sea this week are part of annual training. File Photo by Yonhap
South Korea said Tuesday that military exercises being held near the Dokdo Islets in the East Sea this week are part of annual training. File Photo by Yonhap

June 15 (UPI) -- South Korea said the disputed Dokdo islets are sovereign territory after Tokyo declined a summit with Seoul at G7.

South Korean foreign ministry spokesman Choi Young-sam said Tuesday that the "East Sea Territory Protection Exercise," which began this week near the islets, is "regular annual training" designed for the "purpose of defending" South Korean land, local news service Financial News reported.

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Choi's comments came after Japanese news service Jiji Press reported that Japanese diplomat Takehiro Funakoshi and Hirohisa Soma, deputy ambassador at the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, reportedly told Seoul that the islets are "clearly Japanese territory," and that Korean drills near the territory are "completely unacceptable."

South Korea's military and coast guard trained together in the East Sea on Tuesday. Military sources said the exercises included the navy and air force.

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Choi did not deny reports of complaints from the Japanese Embassy.

"Diplomatic communication is taking place between Korea and Japan on various issues," Choi said. "However, I will not confirm specific diplomatic communication."

Choi also said Dokdo is "historically, geographically" Korean territory, and the status of the Korea-administered islets is an accepted fact in the international community.

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"The government will continue to take a firm stand against any attempts or provocations," Choi said.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and South Korean President Moon Jae-in did not hold a meeting on the sidelines of the G7 summit over the weekend. Suga reportedly said Seoul has not kept promises pertaining to the issue of compensation for former "comfort women" and Korean forced wartime laborers.

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said Tuesday that no plans exist for a bilateral summit in the near future.

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Kato also denied a report from Yomiuri Shimbun published Tuesday that suggested a summit could be held during the Tokyo Olympics.

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