On Tuesday, the South Korean military began annual exercises around a group of islands that Japan also claims to have sovereignty. A few days before the planned meeting between the leaders of the two countries was cancelled due to an Olympic map dispute.
South Korea and Japan disagree over the sovereignty of small islands called “Dokdo” in the former and “Takeshima” in the latter. These small islands are located in the middle of the Sea of Japan (also known as the East China Sea) between the two neighboring countries. .
Decades of territorial disputes have reignited after South Korea protested against the map that marked the islands as Japanese territory on the Tokyo Olympics website.
Japan rejected South Korea’s request to delete the island from the Olympic map. South Korea asked the International Olympic Committee to mediate the dispute, and some South Korean politicians called for a boycott of the Olympics.
Relations between these two Asian neighbors have been cold due to small islands, trade, and compensation for victims who were forced to work in Japanese companies and military brothels during Japanese colonial rule from 1910 to 1945.
South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense said on Tuesday that the exercises in the East China Sea involved the navy, air force, and coast guard, and due to the new crown epidemic, the exercises were conducted with minimal contact between the troops.
South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency earlier reported that Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga raised objections to the exercise and cancelled the talks with President Moon Jae-in at the Group of Seven (G7) summit in the UK originally scheduled for the weekend.
According to Kyodo News, although the two leaders greeted each other at the summit site, they have never met in person since Suga Yoshihide became prime minister last September.
An official from the South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs told Yonhap News Agency, “Unfortunately, due to the territorial defense exercises in the East China Sea held every year, the Japanese side did not respond to the informal meeting where the two sides reached an agreement at the working level.”
on Tuesday,An official of the South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs told Reuters that the meeting could not be held, but did not specify the reason.
When asked about the controversy caused by the exercisewhetherWhen it was the reason for the cancellation of the talks, the official said: “(South Korea) holds regular exercises every year to defend our territory.”
South Korea has held exercises around the island twice a year since 1986, and this has triggered frequent protests in Japan.
Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato denied the Yonhap News Agency’s report on Monday, calling it “one-sided” and saying that the talks were not held due to difficulties in scheduling.
Kato said on Tuesday that Tokyo had protested to Seoul over the exercise, stating that the islands are Japanese territory according to history and international law.
“This kind of exercise is unacceptable and very regrettable,” he said at a press conference. “We have protested to the South Korean government and asked them to stop their actions.”