As South Korea began naval exercises near the disputed islands, leaders canceled planned talks and quarrels over Olympic maps escalated.
The South Korean military began on Tuesday to conduct annual exercises around a group of islands that Japan also claims. A few days ago, planned talks between the leaders of the two countries were cancelled due to an Olympic map dispute.
Seoul and Tokyo are at odds over the sovereignty of small islands called “Dokdo” in South Korea and “Takeshima” in Japan. These small islands are located between the two countries in the Sea of Japan (also known as the East China Sea).
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.
Tokyo rejected Seoul’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.
Due to the discord between islands, trade and compensation issues, the relationship between these two Asian neighbors has been cold. Victims forced to work in Japanese companies and military brothels During Japan’s colonial rule from 1910-45.
South Korea’s Ministry of Defense said on Tuesday that exercises in the East China Sea involving the navy, air force, and coast guard are being conducted with minimal contact between forces due to coronavirus concerns.
South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency earlier reported that Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga raised objections to the exercise and cancelled the meeting with President Moon Jae-in at the Group of Seven (G7) summit that was originally scheduled to be held in the UK over the weekend.
The two leaders exchanged greetings at the summit venue, but have not met in person since. Yoshihide Suga became prime minister last SeptemberAccording to Kyodo News Agency of Japan.
A South Korean Foreign Ministry official told Yonhap News Agency, “Unfortunately, due to the annual exercises to maintain the territory of the East China Sea, the Japanese side has not responded to the withdrawal plan agreed by the two sides at the working level.” “.
An official from the South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs told Reuters on Tuesday that the meeting could not be held, but did not specify the reason.
When asked whether the exercises caused controversy, the official said: “Exercises are held regularly every year to defend our territory.”
South Korea has held two exercises around the island every year since 1986, which has triggered frequent protests in Japan.
Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato denied the Yonhap News Agency’s report on Monday, saying it was “one-sided” and the talks did not take place 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 based on 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.”